Microsoft Goes Mod with Campus Expansion

The building features a central atrium in the lobby topped with a glass roof and with conference rooms overlooking the space. Open staircases flank the atrium, which has a cafi in its center. The space was built to be able to accommodate a meeting of all 650 people who work in the building and all future buildings on campus will have a similar feature.

Schofield used a relatively new Workplace Advantage Lab on campus to see the ideas that Clarkson's team had come up with and choose what would work best for the group. The lab shows off options such as offices with moveable walls that can be converted into larger, shared office spaces and conference rooms that are flanked by offices.

Sliding doors will be one feature that will come standard in all office buildings, as opposed to hinged doors that take up more space. Also, lights in offices will have sensors so they turn on when someone walks into the room and off when the room is empty. All new buildings will also feature under-floor cooling systems, which save energy because they blow cool air from the ground up, rather than forcing cool air from the ceiling through warmer air that naturally rises.

The new office design is more expensive than the old way of doing things, said Owen. But when 90 percent of the cost of running a building is paying for the people inside of it, it's easy to pay off investments that drive productivity, he said.

Microsoft, which already employs over 36,000 people in the Puget Sound region, continues to grow at a fast rate. Last year, the company said it would spend $1 billion on a three-year campus expansion plan. But in mid-November this year it said it would add five more buildings to the previous plan, so now the expansion will support 19,000 new workers. The new plan includes an area of campus planned for completion in early 2009 that features a central outdoor commons, a post office, mini-spa, bookstore and 12 food venues.

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