Currently a Fortune 500 company with revenue approaching $32 billion, DIRECTV, LLC has escalated to the top of the US digital television industry in dramatic fashion since its founding in 1994. Twenty million US customers and 18 million Latin American customers have propelled its growth and pushed its employee base to nearly 30,000 employees. And, naturally, with such an increase in staff and services, the need for improved and expanded facilities has become a top priority.
“DIRECTV wanted to give its employees a more sustainable and functional workplace,” says Hilary Hatch, the company’s vice president of real estate. “We also wanted to create a more high-energy work environment to improve employee engagement and cultivate innovation.”
To this end, the company recently redid its headquarters in El Segundo, California, and the terms “high-energy” and “innovation” are well suited for the experience that now awaits employees there. Beginning at the lobby entrance, where a swirling, tunnel-like array of lights, images, and video dramatically ushers visitors in, the facility stands as a symbol of DIRECTV’s technological innovation and creative influence in the entertainment industry.
A True Home
The lobby’s 26-foot-tall, 118-foot-long tunnel-like artistic structure is known as the Cyclone, and it’s a breathtaking convergence of architectural design, choreographed lighting, and video technology. “It’s a swirling kaleidoscope of color, light, and imagery that brings our cyclone logo to life in a one-of-a-kind contemporary art installation,” Hatch says. Beyond it, the rest of the building is similarly tricked out.
Its 298,000 square feet unfold over 12 floors, and its streamlined layout is meant to foster collaboration, improve employee comfort, and reflect the DIRECTV brand. Natural light, glass walls, and flexible work spaces are emphasized throughout, there are two kitchens on every floor, and there’s an outdoor plaza with Wi-Fi where employees can work (and share lunch) in balmy Southern California weather. Additionally, a café and a fitness center are located just off the main plaza area so that “employees see more of each other on a daily basis rather than just the other people on their floor,” Hatch says.
Employees are already flocking to the outdoor space to meet, eat, and relax. The plaza has become a go-to space for corporate events, and there are fitness challenges and other contests in the works to amp up company culture and capitalize on the bright, new environment. “We wanted to provide a space where employees felt excited to come to work, and we believe that this leads to increased productivity and performance as well,” Hatch says. “So, we designed our lobby, work space, and amenities to reflect that.”
Soon, the rest of the DIRECTV campus will reflect these ideals as well, though ongoing construction has required a measure of patience from staff. With the corporate headquarters now renovated, Hatch and her team have turned to the other buildings on the El Segundo campus, carefully choreographing the staging of construction activities to avoid a massive disruption of workflow. So far, the game of “musical offices” has played out smoothly: “The headquarters building was delivered to us with the core and shell complete,” Hatch says. “So, we were able to build out the whole building and then move employees in as the floors were completed over a few months’ time.”
The ongoing expansion is actually reducing the size of the campus footprint by using space more efficiently. Staff numbers are up, but employees are using less space than before. “Our employees were working in five different buildings in El Segundo, and when the project is complete, we will occupy four of those buildings, despite having grown during the renovation,” Hatch says.
Committed to Sustainability
Wrapped into the new campus’s package of inspiration, comfort, and functionality is a healthy dose of sustainability. The core and shell of the new headquarters had LEED Silver certification, but DIRECTV achieved LEED Platinum for the interior build-out, bringing the company one step closer to its larger goal of reducing its carbon footprint by five percent by 2015. “This is a demonstration of our commitment to conserve energy and reduce waste from our operations—as well as [a demonstration of] our commitment to the communities where we live and work,” says Mike White, DIRECTV’s chairman, president, and CEO.
In many instances, features added to improve employee well-being also ended up meeting the requirements of the LEED checklist. For example, maximizing daylighting created a warm ambiance for staff, but it also conserved energy and led to savings on utility bills. And, by using low-VOC materials in furniture, cleaning supplies, flooring systems, adhesives, sealants, paints, and other coatings, Hatch and her team kept the headquarters clean while also creating an environment where employees can breathe easier.
In addition to daylighting, LEDs and occupancy sensors on fixtures have helped cut energy use at the facility by an additional 21 percent, and there’s also highly efficient HVAC equipment that improves indoor air quality. The headquarters houses a lot of energy-dependent electronic equipment, but 97 percent of its televisions, set-top boxes, and other appliances are Energy Star-rated, allowing DIRECTV to claim itself a leader in green practices within the media industry.
The company strove for sustainability during the construction process as well: 20 percent of the building materials contained recycled content, 46 percent was manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the site, and 96 percent of the construction waste—almost 300 tons of material—was recycled. “We also developed a furniture-liquidation program that repurposed 52 percent of the office furniture from the former building by gifting it to local charities,” Hatch says.
More Milestones to Come
Immediately past the Cyclone is a part of the lobby known as the Living Room. Here, in what is essentially a waiting area, the media giant’s creative and technical prowess is evident thanks to a spectacular video wall made up of 16 60-inch HD TVs and a 7.2 surround-sound system that “immerses visitors into the high-quality television viewing experience we deliver to our customers on a daily basis,” Hatch says.
The Living Room’s state-of-the-art, touch-screen coffee table is equally impressive. Tapping the on-screen display initiates an interactive journey through DIRECTV’s history with various trivia questions, video footage, and historical imagery. When a user selects a milestone on the DIRECTV time line, a “placemat” pops up with a multimedia display on that event in the company’s history.
DIRECTV has hit quite a few notable milestones in its 20 years of existence, and its new headquarters—the company’s first to truly feel like a permanent home—is just the latest.