The Vans headquarters is virtually net zero—and it inspires innovation. [Photo: Eric Laignel]

When sports fashion brand Vans needed more room for its global headquarters, they knew it had to be a space that encouraged the creative expression that has made the brand successful. “It needed to inspire,” says Cheryl Van Doren, vice president of human resources and leader of the project team at Vans.

The company found a vacant property with potential in Costa Mesa, California—across the street from where owners, the Van Doren brothers, went to high school. Working with architectural firm Rapt Studio, they transformed the 182,000-square-foot building, formerly a biotech research and development facility. “The goal was to design a sustainable workplace that would be unique to the culture and work processes of Vans’ growing workforce and yet be flexible to allow for growth and evolution of processes and team makeup,” says David Galullo, CEO and chief creative officer of Rapt Studio.

The LEED Platinum space was designed around the Vans brand—art, music, sports, street culture, and fashion. It provides natural light for each of its 500 employees, a communal kitchen, fitness center, meditation space, skate park, fully equipped BBQ grill, and even a jam room. “We didn’t want people to have to go to another location to do the things they love. We wanted to provide opportunities for people to make this part of their lives,” Van Doren says.

The project team wanted to celebrate people at its core. Various art installations from local artists and employees alike adorn the walls to encourage creativity, passion, and expression. “People love having it around them and they are very passionate about it. We have a lot of talent here,” Van Doren says.

[Photo: Eric Laignel]

The global Vans headquarters in Orange County blends indoors and outdoors for abundant natural lighting. [Photo: Eric Laignel]

A Green Movement

Creativity comes from being energized and healthy, which is why the Vans team was adamant about having their new facility be as green as possible. The facility is one of the most sustainable in Orange County. The space is open and uses minimal artificial light. Each employee has their own personal lamp they can use, if needed, to limit overhead lighting.

The design team installed cutting-edge lighting, heating, and cooling technology to make the building 48% more efficient than required by building code. More than 4,000 solar panels provide 90% of the energy needed to run the headquarters. “The complex is virtually net zero, with no carbon footprint,” Galullo says.

You’ll also find nearly 40 solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, encouraging employees to use sustainable transportation and bringing employee-owned electric vehicles from 17 to 50. An on-site recycling and composting program encourages employees to make smart choices when it comes to trash. The landscaping was replaced with more native and low-maintenance landscaping to reduce water consumption. “It was a simple but smart decision,” Galullo says.

vans headquarters interior couch

[Photo: Eric Laignel]

Eliminating the Conference Room

The Vans headquarters was designed to encourage collaboration, too. The Vans team replaced some of the traditional office space with communal areas. Wi-Fi extends to the parking lot. Employees can choose to work outside or move around the common places. “You can feel it. Employees don’t feel quite as weighed down with working,” Van Doren says. “They can get up, shake it off, and move to a different environment and be more inspired.”

Each function of the Vans team has its own “neighborhood” inside the facility, with a public loop around the center so employees aren’t walking—or skateboarding—through work areas. A red staircase sits in the center of the open atrium connecting all “neighborhoods” and employees. “The property is not elaborate, but it is very Vans,” Van Doren says. There are enough communal areas for each employee to find a place to work away from their desk.

An on-site working library also provides a quiet location for anyone who needs a place to focus. Pink noise machines are used around the work areas to minimize sound—often a problem in open concepts—and Sound Domes allow employees to plug their music in while eliminating the travel of sound.

Vans headquarters lunch table

[Photo: Eric Laignel]

vans headquarters wall art pigeons

The Vans headquarters jumpstarts creativity with unique wall art. [Photo: Eric Laignel]

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