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Image credit: Magda Biernat

Hines Looked to Create a ‘Magnet’ For Workers With New Headquarters Design

After many years in its headquarters just outside Houston’s downtown area, global development firm Hines recently moved into its new HQ in the heart of downtown. Houston has been the home to the company since its inception in 1957, and its most recent offices at Williams Tower were located about eight miles west of downtown Houston, in the city’s Uptown area. But in recent years, the company began to plan for its next home base. Company leaders sought to create an engaging office that incorporated the company’s past and present values: innovation, sustainability, and modern design.

The new Hines HQ is located on ten floors within Texas Tower, a 48-story skyscraper co-developed by Hines and Ivanhoe Cambridge and opened in December 2021. World-renowned architecture firm Pelli Clarke & Partners designed the building to achieve WiredScore and WELL certifications, as well as LEED Platinum, the highest level offered by the standard. Among the tenants of the building are several prominent law firms, including Vinson and Elkins, McGuireWoods, and DLA Piper. Other tenants include companies in the oil and insurance industries. The building has a total of 1.2 million square feet of office space, 180,000 of which Hines will be using for its headquarters.

An interior view of Hines’ new headquarters space within the 1.2 million-square-foot Texas Tower in Downtown Houston.
(Image credit: Magda Biernat)

When Hines employees moved into the new space last summer, it quickly became apparent that the office was a big hit, Whitney Burns, senior vice president of global client strategy at Hines, told me recently. “Everyone’s obsessed, quite honestly,” Burns said. “It’s comfortable but very refined.” The company’s previous headquarters was based out of Williams Tower, a 64-story skyscraper built in 1983, for many years, but there was also another office downtown that housed different Hines divisions. With the new headquarters, for the first time, all employees based in Houston are in the same office and in close proximity. The HQ’s ten floors are connected through internal stairways, and there are several areas for “culture and community” within the space that staff didn’t have at the Williams Tower space. Peppered throughout the space are an array of artifacts from the history of Hines, including the company’s late founder Gerald Hines’ slide rule and an old-school office Rolodex. “It’s great to collaborate in new ways and just socialize with one another,” Burns said.

Texas Tower was developed on the site where the Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in Houston and the entire state, housed its main operations for more than a century. Located on Texas Avenue within the city’s downtown grid, the ground-up development has a striking, angled design created by situating the tower diagonally on the site, which entailed turning the building 45 degrees on its axis. The decision was led in part by the firm’s experience developing a previous project nearby in 2017 at 609 Main Street, not far from Texas Tower, said Hines senior managing director John Mooz. The team received a lot of tenant feedback about how much they liked natural light, something they had been hankering for more of, and wanted more and appreciated the garden. The angling allows more light in, as does cantilevered bays that project away from the building, making it possible to build internal stairs, atriums, and communal spaces. “We solved the natural light issue by turning the building on its axis, and we don’t just have one garden but three gardens, so all tenants can have green space,” Mooz said. The building’s ten-foot, full-height windows also allow more light into the building’s 30,000-square-foot floor plates. 

Sustainability was a big focus in the building’s design (Hines has targeted net-zero operations throughout its portfolio by 2040); examples can be seen in and around the building. The office tower has high-efficiency chillers and an HVAC system that uses an Underfloor Air Distribution system beneath the floor. The system gives building tenants more control over the temperature within their spaces and brings in more fresh air through small ducts within the floor. Plus, it improves indoor air quality and reduces energy use. Lighting in the building integrates LED fixtures with daylight control systems and BMCS monitoring, and Texas Tower’s site is 100 percent irrigated with recycled water from AC condensation and rainwater. 

Hines’ new headquarters was designed to encourage movement and connectivity between teams.
(Image credit: Magda Biernat)

While Hines’ new space still has individual offices, most are located in the core of the building as opposed to the window line, with some smaller offices designed for focus work scattered along window lines. Each Hines team has its own “neighborhood” that includes its own focus room with a breakout area that has soft seating, a TV, and Zoom camera. Work areas have been designed with more flexibility in order to encourage more movement and connectivity between company teams. One floor within the space has an area called “The Mix,” with an open kitchen and an Amazon Go-style store. A sprawling outdoor terrace on the same floor offers employees sitting areas for relaxing, as well as ping-pong and foosball tables. “One of our mantras in designing the building as well as our own space was more ‘we’ space and less ‘me’ space,” Burns said.

Part of creating a modern office meant putting the right tech in the right places. All of Hines’ conference rooms have intelligent cameras that zoom in and out and recognize who is speaking, and logging into a meeting can happen with just a couple of clicks. “We’ve created an environment that encourages people to come in,” Burns said. “It’s more of a magnet than a mandate.” Hines has not made any formal policy on working from home or hybrid schedules. Still, Mooz and Burns said since moving into the new space, many workers are in the office “the vast majority of the time,” though, like many workplaces in the U.S., Fridays are still a popular work-from-home day.

When Hines first began discussing the design concept of the building with architect Pelli Clarke, company leaders wanted to see “a true blurring of spaces” that combined hospitality and office uses. “We wanted to think of walking into a fantastic, hospitality-driven experience, not walking into office lobbies designed for yesteryear,” explained Mooz. Mooz added that even in Hines’ own portfolio going back decades, many of the buildings developed by the firm were more akin to a museum-like feel than somewhere comfortable to sit down. Blending in hospitality elements has been a common theme lately in many new headquarters campuses for major corporate occupiers as they look to keep workers returning to the office and building their brand.

The building’s lobby is an expansive open space that looks up to a mezzanine area with a co-working space and a fitness center. The area also includes soft seating, lamps, plant life, wood accents, and a carousel bar in front with coffee and grab-and-go food during the day, and in the evening, it turns into a bar. “It’s a place you actually want to go, and that just says something,” Burns said. She recalled a recent evening when a large meeting ended, and instead of going out somewhere, the group ended up staying in Texas Tower and having dinner on the terrace. “Usually, you want to get out of the office and go somewhere else, but people just want to be here,” Burns said. “I think it really changes the game on office, flipping the perspective of a place you want to go and not a place where you have to go. That hasn’t really been in the narrative before.” 

In creating Hines’ new headquarters design, the company looked to not only build a modern office to support both hybrid and in-person work but also to create an environment that would bring workers to the office without needing a formal policy. While office design is becoming less stuffy and focusing on the employee experience and collaboration already happening pre-pandemic, the health crisis and the major shift in workplace models have helped push the trend even further. It’s a trend happening with many corporate occupiers at the moment. Given the competitive nature of office development, it’s one we will likely continue to see going forward.

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