Recognized as one of the top 500 of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies by Inc., Bethesda-based Wellness Corporate Solutions (WCS) had outgrown its existing office space and, in 2013, began to search for a location to house its new headquarters. The provider of corporate wellness programs and biometric health screenings—singled out as one of “Greater Washington’s Healthiest Employers 2013” by The Washington Business Journal—collaborated with DBI Architects, Inc. (DBI) to develop a workspace that not only supported the company’s healthful workplace culture but also planned for future growth.
WCS President and CEO Fiona Gathright selected a distinctive location to house the company’s expanded headquarters: a stand-alone structure, featuring a light-filled two-story ground floor, on an active street corner. Monica Pittman, DBI’s Project Director, remarks, “The space has volume and light not found in a traditional floor plan.”
A key visual feature in the design of the two-story space is the open communicating stair, which WCS staff takes full advantage of throughout the workday. Committed to the company’s mission to make exercise a regular activity in the workplace, the staff uses stairs to access the building’s four levels—another reason that the company has been applauded as one of the area’s healthiest workplaces. “Health is more than just our business,” explains Gathright. “It’s part of our culture. Our employees truly walk the talk when it comes to workplace wellness.”
The company incorporates group walks and exercise breaks into its daily schedule, thereby underscoring the value that WCS places on fitness. In outfitting WCS's headquarters, DBI included sit-or-stand desks, exercise ball chairs, fitness equipment, and walk (i.e., treadmill) workstations as fitness-promoting design elements available to all staff. Alternately sitting or standing while working; walking meetings; and exercise breaks are all part of the normal routine at WCS.
Discussions with WCS co-founders Fiona Gathright and Juliet Rodman, along with WCS staff, provided DBI’s design team with a clear vision for the space. Seeking to foster the company’s healthful work style and collaborative culture while also allowing flexibility for growth, DBI decided that an open plan design with alternative workplace options would best serve WCS’s objectives. The DBI team developed open workspace studios on each floor, with each space supported by touchdown, teaming, focus, and collaborative areas.
To develop a human scale and geometry within the ground-level two-story space, DBI incorporated features that provide definition within this voluminous open area. A semi-open pantry with a painted green roof makes use of a large volume of space, while executive offices and low-height masses add further delineation.
Although Monica Pittman and Designer Melissa McClanahan had a distinct vision for the project, the team was challenged to execute its plan within the project’s build-out allowance and, for this reason, examined every aspect of construction to develop cost-efficient solutions while maintaining value and design intent. Juliet Rodman, Chief Wellness Officer and Co-Founder, is more than pleased with the results of DBI’s efforts: “We’re absolutely thrilled with our new headquarters. The company’s growth in the last few years has been tremendous, and our beautiful new space gives us room to expand even further.”
— Written by Monica Pittman and Rebecca Zinn