There is no mistaking the nature of the business from the moment you enter through the glass doors of SRAM’s new Chicago headquarters. A bike track – arrow pointing south denoting the flow of traffic – is at your feet. At the reception desk, an undulating, recycled wood topographical wall is feature, meant to depict terrain. And, directly in front of you: a video wall featuring racing bikers.
This is the 72,000-sq. ft. home of the second largest manufacturer of bicycle components in the world, designed by our Chicago office. Throughout the new HQ, from visual cues to the workspaces, group meeting, and more informal areas – including men’s and women’s locker rooms – the space reinforces SRAM’s deeply-embedded biking culture, while elevating its brand. “We believe in the power of bicycles to transform lives, and, in this new space, our culture celebrates that,” says David Zimberoff, vice president of marketing for SRAM.
In planning the new space, a core team of six SRAM executives met regularly with Perkins+Will Corporate Interior practice leaders and workplace strategists. SRAM scouted 30 office sites before deciding on a newly-converted 1923 cold storage warehouse in historic Fulton Market, one of the most vibrant office and mixed-used areas in Chicago.
Moving from three floors of offices it had occupied at its previous site for more than 20 years, SRAM’s new space needed to include several key features: a corporate test track, increased space for communal collaboration, and space for education and training. Also high on the priority list: locker rooms with showers to accommodate and support the 100+ employees riding in to work. “We support a cycling commuting culture, and we encourage our employees to get on their bikes and ride every day,” says Zimberoff.
Meeting spaces, including conference rooms, are spread throughout the office, allowing for formal and informal gatherings. And, of course, it’s no surprise that bicycles are ever-present. At every group of work stations within the mountain, racing, and city bike part manufacturing company stands a novel bike racking system. Developed out of an internal design contest at SRAM, bright red poles with hooks allow “SRAMies” to hang their bikes. In SRAM’s old office, bikes were leaned against walls of private offices, but with the new offices containing only four private offices, it necessitated the different approach.
The new space meets all of SRAM’s objectives. The alternating green and gray-colored 1/8-mile test track, with straightaways and twists and turns, winds its way through the office where the theme of openness and collaboration is clearly expressed. Work stations are generously spaced apart from each other, and can easily be moved, raised, or lowered. There are also rooms for engineering and machine work – all of which is conducted in-house – and a paddock area for work on racing bikes. Socialization is especially fostered in the large kitchen and café area, which expands to accommodate all-staff Monday morning meetings. This area is a major improvement over SRAM’s old space, where no more than 20 people could gather in the kitchen. The space includes break-out meeting nooks for informal meetings, and features an outdoor wraparound deck that looks south over the city.
The impact of the new space for current employees is profound, says Zimberoff, and it’s certain to be a key recruiting tool for future employees. “People are really stoked,” he says. “How could you not walk a prospect or a new employee through here, and not have them want to work here?”