As the largest LEED Platinum campus project in the Chicagoland area, Zurich’s 40-acre landscape extends beyond the building’s footprint with a variety of green spaces bolstered by over 600 trees and thousands of native plants providing a verdant overture, intermission, and ovation to any employee’s workday.
The new headquarters for Zurich North America was designed with employee wellness at the forefront. When beginning the process of designing the new campus, the company felt that employee involvement was so critical to the outcome, that the new building should derive its concept from the crowdsourcing of employee suggestions. The collaborative process that resulted makes this project a corporate campus that was built for employees, by employees.
Creating a work environment that bore strong connections to nature and the greater landscape was an early goal that came about in the project's development. With this emphasis on nature, Hoerr Schaudt was the obvious choice to design the landscape and outdoor use areas for this new headquarters. The design team was tasked to create exterior spaces that would enliven the Zurich experience, giving employees an environmental respite on busy days and beautiful afternoons.
The human-centric landscape begins when employees and visitors enter the arrival plaza. Here, they are immediately met by an atypical parking lot, one that contains trees and furniture to soften the space, interspersing humanized moments in an otherwise auto-dominated area. A dramatic, sweeping open green space is then “choregraphed” to unfold as visitors enter the building through a series of tree groves.
Environmental wellness was also considered in the design of the campus, and the project employed a variety of stormwater management practices to soften its impact on the site. Multiple green roofs totaling over an acre in area are distributed over the lower wings of the building perform triple duty by reducing runoff, insulating the structures and providing softened green views to occupants of upper floors of the main building.
An elliptical pond collects stormwater, much of which is purified by vegetation and soil filters, rather than sent directly to the sewers. This rainwater harvesting coupled with careful horticulture planning reduces water usage and the need for supplemental irrigation.
Courtyards along the south-facing façade give employees an urban park between the East and West wings, becoming outdoor rooms that resemble European-style pleasure grounds. A water feature adds to the elegant and romantic nature of these repose-ready spaces, while a flat lawn is conducive for large gatherings and events. Two bocce courts additionally sit atop the building.
The new Zurich headquarters reflects the company’s investment in the local community, the state economy, and the North American market. Zurich is a major contributor to the Illinois economy, providing approximately 3,000 jobs and generating nearly $1.3 billion in economic impact.