A few years ago, as Google started preparing to build two enormous, over-the-top campuses in Silicon Valley—totaling 1.6 million square feet and costing an unspecified sum—the corporation decided to dip its toes in the water with a much smaller, restrained project nearby. The first ground-up building for the search engine company, Google at 1212 Bordeaux in Sunnyvale, California, is not a prototype for either of the forthcoming complexes—a tent-like extravaganza by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Heatherwick Studio, and a terraced facility BIG is designing independently. Instead, the 100,000-square-foot office by Charlottesville, Virginia–based Parabola Architecture is testing various strategies for optimizing fundamentals like daylighting, air quality, and acoustics to help employees focus and be productive in an open-plan space. For the most part, the moves are familiar and time-tested options rather than innovative technologies; it is the overall commitment to improving occupant comfort that sets the building apart. “This is essentially a giant mockup that people can interact with, allowing us to collect data on what is and isn’t working,” says Josh Portner, district development executive at Google.

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The 200,000-square-foot lot had been occupied by a 1960s-era satellite-manufacturing plant. Because the existing concrete tilt-up structure would have been difficult to adapt, new construction seemed the obvious choice. Google paired the three-person firm of Parabola Architecture (whose principals had previously worked on Google’s master plan and design guidelines) with local Devcon Construction to create a design-build team, for a more efficient and cost-effective process.

Familiar with Google’s leanings, the architects started out with the idea of an exposed unfinished-steel structure and developed the design from there. “We embraced the idea of simplicity and tried to have a building that was responsive and tunable to light, air, and noise,” says Kevin Burke, a Parabola principal. Adds Carrie Meinberg Burke, another principal, “We’re technically driven in our practice. We want to learn more and more about the immutable factors that impact the experience of buildings, so we put our attention toward performance and user comfort.”

From outside, the rectilinear three-story building, with its curtain wall and precast-concrete panels and cornice, blends in easily with its office park neighbors, belying the drama of the space inside. Past a modest lobby, the building opens into a narrow, triple-height space, one of three ground-floor corridors that rise to a luminous sawtooth roof, supported by exposed steel trusses. The building’s lower level is devoted to a café, a bank of meeting rooms organized compactly between the corridors, and desk space to the north. The main open work area occupies the second floor: a double-height, largely column-free piano nobile that is ringed above by a mezzanine level with additional desks. Glass-walled meeting rooms line the floor’s perimeter, allowing daylight to penetrate its center. While providing an optimal work environment, this soaring space was also a response to zoning requirements: the floor-area ratio restricted the total square footage of the building, but permitted greater height.

Pushing the service core to the building’s south end (rather than locating it in the center) also helped the team create the second floor’s large, continuous expanse, which enables flexibility for subsequent uses. Given the rapidly evolving nature of office work, Google wanted to avoid building too many enclosed spaces and is considering the use of “pop-up” conference rooms. While the building currently holds approximately 500 people, the company plans to increase the density of desks to test out the ideal ratio of workstations to collaborative areas; staff can choose to work at their own assigned desks or in various common areas. Addressing the elevated noise levels that often come with the open plan, the team used the service core as an acoustic buffer between the noisy café areas and desk spaces. Noise is further mitigated by metal acoustical decking throughout, screens and railings of white oak slats that do double duty as acoustic panels, and a soundmasking system that is specifically tuned to voices to prevent conversations from traveling.

While flooding the building with light, the sawtooth roof’s glazing offers glimpses of the sky, another attribute valued by Google. “We believe that giving people access to nature in some way—to be able to see out and understand what time of day it is and what season it is—is really important,” says Mary Davidge, director of campus design at Google. “Every person in this space can do that, which is difficult with a 40,000-square-foot floor plate.” To reduce glare, the design team oriented the roof’s glazing to the north and included terraces whose metal overhangs shade the southern exposure. The building also has automated exterior blinds on all sides. Addressing another quality-of-life issue—air flow—the team employed a system used in laboratories: a centralized sensor continually monitors the interior environment and adjusts ventilation accordingly.

Since Google staff only moved in this past January, it is a bit early for the company to say that the trial run has been a definitive success. It is collecting quantitative data using a series of sensors that allow it to compare reality to computer models, as well as gathering employee feedback through online surveys. But, based on initial responses, it’s very likely that most of the building’s design elements will be implemented in the bigger projects. “Unlike some of our other buildings, where we’ve gotten hundreds of complaints right away,” says Portner, “for this one, people have submitted positive feedback, which is highly unusual.”

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Architect / Project Lead Designer


614 Park Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902




Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Carrie Meinberg Burke AIA – Design Partner, Kevin Burke AIA – Design Partner, Ryan Carbone – Designer, Matthew Wagner NCIDQ – Consultant, Mark Graham AIA – Consultant


Architect of record:

Devcon Architecture: Pamela Warren AIA, Sean Gillin – Assoc AIA, Jolyn Winner – Assoc AIA

690 Gibraltar Drive

Milpitas, CA 95035




Interior designer:

Interior Architecture: Parabola

Interior Design & Furnishings: Rapt Studio



Structural: Nishkian Menninger

Civil: Kier & Wright

Mechanical / Electrical / Plumbing / Integrated Design: Point Energy Innovations

Daylighting / Integrated Design: Integral Group

Acoustical: Charles M. Salter Assoc. Inc.

Lighting: Point Energy Innovations / Clanton Associates


Design Consultants:

Ecological / Habitat: H.T. Harvey & Associates

Landscape: O’Shea Wilson Siteworks / Parabola

Code / Fire: The Fire Consultants

Waterproofing: Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger

LEED: Point Energy Innovations / Kath Williams & Assoc


Design-Build and Design-Assist Subcontractors:

Structural Steel: Gayle Manufacturing

Buckling Restrained Bracing: CoreBrace

Precast Concrete: Willis Construction Inc

Glass & Glazing: Walters & Wolf

Stairs / Rails / Misc Metals: Glazier Steel

Electrical / Lighting: Redwood Electric Group

HVAC / Plumbing: ACCO Engineered Systems

Grading / Paving / Site Concrete: Joseph J. Albanese, Inc

Architectural Woodwork: Complete Millwork Services

Exterior Blinds: Peninsulators / Draper Inc

Food Service Equipment: Trimark Raygal Inc

Sound Masking: Archoustics West

Commissioning: Enovity Inc.


Design-Build Contractor:

Devon Construction

John Castagnoli – Project Executive, Laura Zanger – Project Manager, Daniel Thelin – Project Superintendent, Paul Salinero – Assistant Superintendent



© Google / Prakash Patel Photography


Structural System

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:

Steel framing: Gayle Manufacturing Company

Acoustic metal deck: ASC Steel Deck


Exterior Cladding

Unitized glass & aluminum curtain wall: Walters and Wolf

Board-formed prefabricated concrete panels: Willis Construction Inc.

Wood cladding: Accoya

Corten steel canopy & garden gates: Glazier Steel

Custom downspouts: Air Systems / EMCOR

Exterior automated blinds: Draper

Exterior fixed louvers: Draper




TPO roofing: Carlisle

Metal: Morin Architectural Metal



Anodized aluminum interior storefront: Walters and Wolf



Exterior: Viracon

Interior Fire Rated: Technical Glass Products



Entrances: Walters and Wolf

Metal doors: Door Components, Inc.

Wood doors: Architectural Wood Doors

Fire-control doors: United California



Locksets: Schlage

Oil rubbed bronze levers: Schlage

Closers: LCN

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Walters and Wolf custom

Security devices: Owner’s proprietary


Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong Optima

Suspension grid: Armstrong Industries

FSC Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Complete Millwork Services

Paints and stains:

Mineral Paint (C2C): Romabio

Stain: Rubio Monocoat

Raw steel finish: Tried & True Danish Oil

Wall coverings: Calico custom, 180 WEST custom

Paneling: Accoya

Solid surfacing: Neolith

Floor tile: DalTile

Wall tile: Fireclay Tile (local handmade)

Carpet: Bentley Trance (C2C certified backing)

Raised flooring: TecCrete

Special interior finishes unique to this project:

Bark wall at Lobby (C2C Platinum): Barkhouse

Custom acoustic & functional FSC white oak bookledge: Complete Millwork Services

Acoustic wood slat & cotton panels: Acoustigreen / Complete Millwork Services

Acoustic wall panels: Polymax with Sonocoat

Oiled raw steel stairs & railings: Glazier Steel

Custom palladium leaf LEED Platinum plaque gilded on steel column and recycled gold leaf address numbers by Gentleman Scholar Signs



Office furniture: Pear – One Workplace

Reception furniture: Ohio Designs, Makr, Uhuru, Davis, Usona/Cypress,  Andriannna Shamaris, DWR/Taccini, 100xbtr

Fixed seating: Sedia, Northwood

Chairs: Steelcase, Bludot, Muuto, Allermuir, Nuans, Stylex

Tables: Pair, HPL, Northwood, HCSI/HPL, SIS


Other furniture:

Ancillary: Arper, Northwood, Blu Dot, Artittud/Artifort, Concrete Pig, Arper, Buzzi, Carl Hansen, Roger and Chris, Muuto, Danish Design Store, Pfeifer Studio, Naughtone, West Elm, Industry West, Makr, Sossego, The Future Perfect, Hem, Tom Dixon, Atelier, DeVorm, Zachary A, Magis, Bernhardt, Citizenry

Garden: Room & Board, Janus Et Cie, Kettal, HCSI/ITSconcrete, Emeco, Property Furniture, DWR, Landscape Forms



Interior ambient lighting: Optic Arts, Bruck, Finelite, Philips Color Kinetics

Downlights: Gotham, Halo, Eureka, Amerlux

Tasklighting: Finelite, Metalux

Exterior: BEGA, we-ef, Hevi Lite, Gotham, Modern Forms, Birchwood Lighting, Eaton

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Enlighted, DMX (Philips iPlayer3)



Elevators/escalators: Kone



Sinks: Elkay

Lavatories: Kohler

Water closets: TOTO

Showers: Bricor



Energy management or building automation system:

Photovoltaic system: SunSystem Technology

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:


Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:

CO2 Sensors: Aircuity

Sound masking: Archoustics West / Logison