Almost four years after the groundbreaking, Adobe has officially opened its 18-story, all-electric new headquarters building in San Jose, California — a much-heralded project that broke ground in 2019 but morphed over time as the company adapted to new workplace realities introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The so-called Founders Tower, named for co-founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, adds 1.25 million square feet to the software company’s building portfolio, a space capable of accommodating up to 4,000 employees. The structure, certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, contains the largest all-electric commercial kitchen in North America — a 50,000-square-foot space equipped with induction cooking equipment and an all-electric pizza oven from Italy. (Microsoft, another software giant making sustainability moves on its campus, will have a headquarters that will support more all-electric cooking equipment across multiple sites, but not all of the sites are open.)
The building, designed by Gensler, also includes other features that are far from commonplace including:
- Dual plumbing fixtures, so the company will be able to use reclaimed water for certain purposes such as landscaping or flushing toilets — once the city of San Jose has completed its own infrastructure work;
- "Fins" on the exterior facade that allow light to enter, while blocking the most intense sunshine, which helps keep the interior temperatures from fluctuating dramatically and also reduces energy required for heating and cooling;
- Submeters on pretty much every level you can think of — there are more than 1,000 meter points in the "Brain" that facilities managers can use to keep tabs on both electricity and water usage; there’s as load management system attached to the "couple of hundred" electric vehicle chargers in the tower;
- And a hybrid system that includes water-cooled chillers and air-source heat pumps; the latter have an efficiency of 300 percent, compared to 90 percent for typical hot water boilers, according to the company’s marketing communications about the buildings.
I had a chance to chat about the project with two Adobe executives: Eric Kline, director of global workplace experience for Adobe; and Scott Hiller, head of sustainability and energy infrastructure. Here are some other things I learned, which aren’t included in the blog post:
- The building isn’t powered directly by renewable energy. Hiller said the focus on direct investments to the building prioritized efficiency. While solar was considered for the roof and sides of the building, it wasn’t a viable option. So Adobe’s claim that the building uses 100 percent renewables is based on an agreement for Tier 1 renewable energy credits sourced from a combination of California wind and solar assets. Additionally, Adobe wanted to match its hourly usage more closely with hourly production of renewable energy by blending production of specific wind and solar projects. The company covers 70 percent of its operational load with bundled RECs. This tower is one of four at its headquarters site.
- The interior design was adapted because of the pandemic. Getting people to come to offices is a challenge: More than 90 percent of 70 million people polled by Gallup in 2022 said they don’t want to come back to an office full-time. Workplace expectations are different from the start of the pandemic. With that in mind, Adobe opted for raised floor spaces and adaptability of the spaces it has created, prioritizing community spaces (such as the new cafeteria), collaboration modules and focused work stations where quiet is prioritized. The building is color-coded from the inside and out, both for navigation and to create certain moods: orange for group engagement and connection; blue for focused work; and green for learning and collaboration. "There were things that changed understanding that we might not need as much focus space, but more collaborative and community space for when people are there," Kline told me.
- The kitchen received particular attention. It’s a centerpiece of the site, and one Kline hopes will be heavily used and toured. "Sharing a meal is the original version of social networking," he said. Adobe’s team requested and reviewed all equipment; the electric pizza oven was a particularly difficult item to find, but it prevailed. Aside from the new equipment, the facility makes all food from scratch and the cuisine uses only seasonal ingredients, to uphold its other sustainability commitments.
So how many of these design elements will make their way into other Adobe buildings? That’s still a work in progress, but the company wants the space to provide inspiration not just for its own facilities teams but for other companies rethinking their own workplaces. "You’re showing other people that these are the right moves to make," Kline said.
Updated March 8, 2023: This story was updated at Adobe's request to provide more details about the credits that it uses to make its claims about renewable energy consumption.