Sustainable by Design

Genentech’s Building 35 (B35), is a welcoming work space, with a soaring atrium, natural light and air, sweeping views, and flexible spaces for employees to work, whether interacting with teams or concentrating alone. The building was designed and constructed with many of the company’s core values in mind—wellbeing, collaboration, flexibility, and environmental sustainability. Now Genentech has opened Building 34 (B34), a new, even greener campus community center.

Our newest buildings; B35, left, and B34, center.

In B35, which opened in May 2015, Genentech took the same science-based approach to creating a sustainable workplace that the company uses to make medicines. During design and construction, the company figured out how to make the building as energy efficient as possible by using a new energy modeling technology, participating in the Department of Energy’s Facility for Low Energy eXperiments in Buildings (FLEXLAB) program. This is a first of its kind experiment that allows companies to model energy use for entire buildings, under real world conditions, to help make sustainable construction decisions. In the past, architects and engineers had to analyze building efficiency on a system-by-system basis. With FLEXLAB, Genentech was able to test-drive the whole building before anyone moved in, in order to optimize the design for energy efficiency.

Genentech also used environmentally friendly building materials and practices for B35. As an early partner in the U.S. Green Building Council Northern California Building Health Initiative, the company teamed up with building professionals dedicated to using non-toxic materials that are better for the environment and for the health of employees. Additionally, during construction, 98% of debris was diverted from landfills through conservation efforts.

B35 was designed to reduce energy, waste, and water usage. The building, which has achieved LEED Gold certification—a program that recognizes best-in-class green building practices—uses 80% less energy per person compared to similar buildings on campus. Natural light and automatic dimming features limit energy use. Water-efficient fixtures lessen water use by 35%, and water bottle fillers throughout the building reduce the use of plastic bottles. Design features help keep the amount of paper people use down, and signs encourage employees to use compost and recycling stations.

“The reason we’ve been able to make such significant strides around our energy commitment and water reduction goals is the strong engagement from our employees, and with the vision and support from our leadership,” says Carla Boragno, vice president, Site Services. “Employees want to work for a company that wants to do good both for its people and the environment.”

The B35 atrium, overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

B35 was also designed with the wellbeing of employees in mind. Outdoor views and natural light make people feel energized and motivated while they’re working. Walkways and stairwells give people a place to move and think, and neighborhoods of workspaces offer them places to collaborate. Flexible workspaces–adjustable sit-to-stand desk, a high bar table, a couch, or an outdoor bench–give people a sense of control, comfort, and choice in their workplace environment. Features like having the air in conference rooms monitored for freshness, accessible healthy food, and relaxation spaces help people feel good and perform well. And it’s working, since B35's opening in May 2015 surveys of employees have reported a notable uptick in team productivity and collaboration.

B34 was built on four pillars: sustainability, wellbeing, community, and innovation. To that end, the company is furthering its commitment to creating a healthy space by not only going for LEED Gold certification again, but also WELL Certification, which is the first building standard to focus on the health, productivity, and wellness of the people in the buildings. WELL certification involves the ongoing evaluation of various aspects of a healthy building, from fundamentals like air and water quality to ergonomic comfort and design that encourages creative thinking.

In B34, employees can open windows manually for fresh air and good ventilation. Water is filtered and available throughout the buildings in bottle dispensers so they can stay hydrated. B34 is filled with natural light from a large central atrium and the building also encourages healthy movement, with a large central set of stairs to climb. A roof garden will get people outside, breathing fresh air while enjoying the plants. Genentech will continue to monitor B35 and now B34’s impact on the environment, with new features such as a grey water system that will treat and reuse water for toilet flushing and landscape areas.

“By creating an environment that supports health and wellbeing, we believe our employees will operate at their best. This is good for our business and ultimately good for the people who need our medicines,” says Boragno.