By AIA Contract Documents
With its business on the rise, Natixis Global Asset Management was rapidly outgrowing its current rental space that included multiple buildings around the city of Boston. Over the past decade, the firm had added nearly 500 Boston-based staff and $80 billion of assets under management.
With an eye on bringing employees to a single location, the firm’s executive team made the decision to establish a U.S. corporate headquarters in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. The newly constructed 17-story, LEED Platinum building provided the ideal location.
Natixis turned to CBT Architects, a leading architecture, interior, and urban design firm for national and international projects, to help turn six floors totaling 154,000 square feet into a cohesive and connected office space for all employees.
Peter G. Longley, COO at CBT Architects, recounts the design team’s initial conversation about the intended look and feel. “It wasn’t just a matter of designing spaces and picking the right colors and furniture. We needed to understand their business model and flow to provide optimal work environment that allowed for vertical (across five floors) interaction along with a sustainable focus.”
CBT was selected for the interior fit-out design project through a conventional request for proposal (RFP) process that was arranged by the owner’s project manager, who already knew CBT from previous work.
“Our proposal led with a mission statement to embrace design problems and deliver simple solutions that capture the spirit of the organization,” says Longley. “We assured them that we would balance their goals and vision with creativity, to build a new environment that fit their culture and would position their organization for current and future needs.”
Like most projects, CBT’s proposal included a list of past projects of similar size and complexity, team member qualifications, project assumptions and exclusions, and a fee schedule. CBT was also asked to submit a proposed contract, which they built around the B152™-Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Architect for Interior Design and Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment (FF&E) Design Services.
“For us, the B152 Owner/Architect-Interior Design document is the starting point for any negotiation,” says Longley.
Subsequently, Natixis and their project manager requested minor modifications to customize the document for the services required to complete the project. Longley recalls, “There were very light edits. I think that is largely due to our previous working relationship with the project manager, so we had an established trust, and an educated owner. Too often, owners will look to shift their risk to the architect or contractor—the AIA documents help prevent that from happening by assigning the risks to the party best suited to handle them. But in this case, risk allocation was never questioned.”
With contract agreement, CBT was selected as the interior design consultant for the project.
The first decision by the owner was to pursue LEED Gold certification for their new headquarters.
“The building itself was already certified LEED Platinum, so continuing that recognition was an important point to our client. They absolutely wanted to attain a high rating to attract highly qualified employees and promote a culture of sustainability,” explains Longley.
To support this objective, CBT looked to leverage the availability of natural light in all aspects of the office space. They pulled private offices away from the perimeter, freeing up the exterior space for workstations and collaborative hubs, which provided a majority of employees with unfettered access to light and views. Open office seating positioned along the windows also serves as a living, breathing billboard, advertising the culture and mission of Natixis to the pedestrian network below. To emphasize employee wellness and encourage social integration, the design team distributed social hubs and touchdown spaces (alternatives to large office areas) throughout.
The resulting design provided a navigable and familiar parallel for Natixis’ signature Boston office. Using the “city” as a metaphor for the offices, architects created neighborhoods, such as the Common, Downtown, Uptown, and the Bridge—each imbued with distinct identity and character.
Neighborhood squares provided team-oriented work areas and adjacent common spaces through each floor. A new fourth-floor terrace, a core component of the Natixis employee wellness initiative, was another dynamic place designed for staff to socialize, relax, and recharge.
During the course of the project, seven additional service items were added to the original contract. Spread out over five floors, the plan was to design an open staircase connecting the floors and maintaining a sense of community between levels.
During the project, there were some floor plan changes to drive better vertical interaction as well as some redesign of ceiling spaces and the incorporation of associated mechanical changes to accommodate the openness created by the central staircase.
CBT worked through the original design intent, incorporating changes and improvements along the way, while addressing owner concerns for the best possible job processes and workflow situations. Once construction documents were completed, both the owner’s project manager and CBT were asked for recommendations for a construction manager.
Longley says, “We participated in the interviews and helped with the selection. The winning contractor had a proven track record. They were good at listening, responding, and providing a well-built, well-coordinated project.”
At completion, CBT delivered a headquarter design that met the desires and expectations of the owner, Natixis, by doing what they do best. Longley concludes, “We listened closely, responded quickly, and kept the project moving forward through all phases.”
The interior fit-out project was completed in 2017. Today, about 450 of Natixis’s 1,500 Boston-area-staff work in the new headquarters. With a second headquarters in Paris, France, Natixis has more than 3,650 employees worldwide and $951 billion of assets under management.