HOUSTON — An image of Devon Tower flashed among the slides of distinguished Hines projects.
“If you’re not from Oklahoma City, you might wonder why you would build this building in Oklahoma City,” said C. Hastings “Hasty” Johnson, vice chairman of Houston-based Hines, developer and now facility manager of the 1.8-million-square-foot, 50-story skyscraper and Devon Energy Center.
It was “to make Devon more appealing to top geologists,” he said. Devon brass told Hines “if that results in one meaningful find, it’ll pay for a building like this,” Johnson said.
Unlike in past generations, corporate executives now really care what their employees — and potential employees — think, Johnson said at the National Association of Real Estate Editors annual meeting.
For new corporate campuses, horizontal or vertical, that means meeting millennials, the generation born after 1980, where they are in life and giving them what they want out of life, said architect Hal B. Sharp of San Francisco-based Gensler Architects, which did interior design for Devon Energy.
It’s not just form, although an iconic, not quite 2-year-old skyscraper in a re-energized, re-urbanized downtown is just the kind of thing millennials might find appealing.
Devon Energy Center, designed by Pickard Chilton Architects, New Haven, Conn., features a six-story glass rotunda with a sky-lit roof with rings of balconies overlooking the space. At the street level, an open-to-the-public promenade accesses restaurants. There’s a public park, plaza, shade trees and a reflecting pool.
It’s the way millennials function that matters most, Sharp said, with less office space needed per capita — 180 to 200 square feet, down from 250 — because of work mobility made possible by changes in both technology and culture.
“Trophy properties,” Sharp said, are so 30 years ago. White-collar employees expect to be able to work in a coffee bar or outdoor space on campus, as well as in collaboration-oriented office space, he said.
Millennials, in fact, landed at No. 3 on the Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate as compiled by The Counselors of Real Estate, in Chicago, and presented by Hugh F. Kelly, 2014 chairman, at the editors meeting.
Kelly said millennials make up 27 percent of the adult population. By 2020, they will comprise half the workforce and by 2030 they will make up 75 percent of all workers, Sharp said.
So corporations are getting to know them as they look ahead a decade or more. Kelly pointed to two characteristics that would seem to factor into millennials’ impact on corporate campus design.
“They have enthusiastically embraced the new platforms of the digital era: the Internet, mobile technology and social media, as they construct elaborate personalized networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups,” Kelly said.
And, he said, “This generation has a strong environmental conscience.”
Devon Energy met that second millennials expectation with its LEED Gold certification, for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Devon also met what Kelly described as millenials’ “strong preference” for dynamic urban environments.
Acquiring the historic Colcord Hotel, which connects to the Devon property, rather than razing it to get it out of the way, was a nice touch, “really ... a civic gesture,” Sharp said.
A catalyst for change
Devon Energy Center “has become a catalyst for change for both Devon and Oklahoma City,” Gensler explains on its website. “Consolidating its workforce from five buildings into one enabled Devon to dramatically improve its work effectiveness.
“Thoughtful organization led to the blending of workplace and amenities to create a unified vertical campus. A 100-foot-high rotunda, the heart and soul of the campus, links the main tower to the podium and exterior, publicly shared, garden area.”
Gensler’s website adds, “Flexibility was the driver for typical office floors, with demountable walls, raised floors and an adaptable lighting system.
The resulting LEED Gold-certified project has dramatically increased employee retention and recruitment.”