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Companies like IBM and Cisco, Microsoft and Apple, Google and Amazon, have been at the center of society’s digital transformation. Each one competes over its space in the market, and increasingly in the smart building age, each one competes over the quality of its space.

New headquarters create a buzz around the company but also the whole industry and its new neighborhood. Large company campuses can impact the entire area in which it’s based, the influx of hundreds or thousands of employees can rejuvenate local businesses, encourage renovation of the district and the campus itself acts as a retail and entertainment hub for all those living and working nearby.

A buzz also echos around the smart building industry itself, as expectations of futuristic urban spaces run wild when the richest technology companies rebuild. So the announcement of a 643,000-square-foot modernization of software giant Microsoft’s 32-acre Mountain View location in Silicon Valley, has the imaginations in overdrive.

Plans have been finalized and ground broken on the company’s “Campus of the Future”, which will house more than 2,000 employees. Microsoft estimate it will take two years to complete and be ready for occupancy in December 2019. The key focus of the firm’s announcements so far revolve around the environment.

“Our goal is to design a campus that benefits and restores the natural area. California continues to face increased demand for limited water and energy resources. We took these challenges into account when we began our design plans. We started with the biggest challenge for the region — water,” the company said, underlining its commitment to the United States’ leading technology region.

The campus is designed to achieve net zero non-potable water certification under the International Living Future Institute’s, Living Building Challenge, making Microsoft the first tech company to achieve this certification. An integrated water management system that operates under the guiding principle of putting non-potable water into service more than once, by harvesting rainwater and installing an onsite wastewater plant for treatment, for example.

The buildings themselves meet LEED Platinum certification, in addition to WELL Building standards for health, while solar power is set to make up a significant portion of energy consumption. More uniquely, a 4-acre living roof will reintroduce native ecology to the campus to promote species diversification in the nearby Stevens Creek ecological habitat. “We understand what a privilege it is to have our campus next to Stevens Creek, and we are committed to building a campus that can be net positive on the health of this local area,” the company states.

The modern workspaces throughout the campus will promote collaboration and productivity, providing areas that help generate creativity and allow for focused concentration, in line with the latest in workplace design theory. Employees will have an abundance of natural light across the campus through an almost ubiquitous glass exterior, and the “neighborhood and courtyard concept” encourages employees to transition from outdoor to indoor spaces more seamlessly.

“Microsoft has been a core part of the Silicon Valley tech economy for more than 36 years, contributing to innovation and partnering with the local community to have a positive impact. The new Silicon Valley Campus will build on our legacy in the area and demonstrate our commitment to empower employees, the community and our natural resources,” the company states proudly.

The buzz surrounding new company campuses is not just a product of curiosity, managing and encouraging this buzz can serve several purposes for the business. As a public relations opportunity new campuses offer the chance to demonstrate progressive and responsible attitudes to important issues like health and the environment. Perhaps even more important is the impression a new campus gives to prospective new employees.

“A highly functional and attractive workplace can also function as a tool to entice and retain the best talent. Younger generations of the workforce will demand, and function best within the most innovative and intelligent workspaces. It will therefore be the companies who evolve their workplaces first, that will attract the best talent,” we explain in our recent report: The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era.

The timing of Microsoft’s announcement is important therefore, to get the word out before their thunder is comprehensively stolen by a little company down the road. After first opening its door back in April, the new Apple campus is in the final stages before a full opening during 2018. ‘Apple Park,’ the company’s new 175-acre campus, was originally dubbed ‘Spaceship Campus’ for its futuristic circular design. While some employees have already moved in, it will take a few more months to fill and complete the 12,000 employee facility.

When the richest technology companies in the world build new campuses the buzz is justified, because these campuses should be the most progressive buildings in the world and a glimpse into the future of workplaces.

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