Danone Headquarters: An Office Model for Health and Sustainability

Powerhouse Company

Architects: Powerhouse Company
Location: Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
Area: 8.400 m2
Year: 2019
Photography: Sebastian van Damme

The leading global food company Danone has officially opened the doors of its new offices in Hoofddorp. Designed and built for Danone in a strategic location of the Amsterdam metropolitan area, the office will serve as the new headquarters for Early Life Nutrition and Advanced Medical Nutrition, two of the company’s leading businesses, and for Danone’s global procurement function: Cycles & Procurement. In 2017, Powerhouse Company won the competition for the 8,400 m2 office building in collaboration with developers from RED Company. Nanne de Ru, founder and leader of both organizations, led his teams to deliver a building that strongly reflects Danone’s vision, “One Planet. One Health”. With its focus on sustainability and health, the new building gives shape to the belief that the health of the planet and people are interconnected.

Clean Lines and Round Corners

The state-of-the-art office building is located on the Taurusavenue, near the historical monument of the Amsterdam Defense Line, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1996. The exterior aspect of the building, with its clean lines and transparent character, was designed to match this special context. A grid of light-colored Terrazzo cladding frames the large openings. The transition from the building to the natural surroundings is mediated by the rounded corners of the building volume, which soften the geometric grid of the façade. To realize these perfectly rounded corners in the building, Powerhouse Company collaborated with Saint Gobain to develop the spectacular-size rounded glass that contributes to the unique character of the project.

The Atrium: Social Heart of the Building

The interior of the building is shaped around a spacious atrium adjacent to the garden. A glass roof, together with the transparent façade, floods the space with natural light all the way through the ground floor. The atrium features the building’s “green lung”, a spectacular 20-meter-high wall covered with plants, visible from all the balconies of the four 1,600 m2 office floors that embrace the spacious void. On the southwest side of the atrium, visitors are led to the first floor through a large staircase, a volumetric element that defines the space and the grand start of the walking route throughout the whole building. Combining the informal quality of a gathering space with the public prominence of an exhibition space, the design of the staircase responds to its main functions: the large steps host flexible staff meetings and breaks, as well as presentations and lectures.

Tailored for the Future

The ground floor accommodates the public functions of the building, such as the reception and the restaurant. The column-free office floors that face the atrium are filled with daylight and are designed as flexible workspaces. Through the glass façades, they also offer spectacular views of Schiphol Airport, the building garden, and the surrounding polder landscape. Inviting and informal working places stimulate different ways of working together throughout the whole building. The head office is located on the first floor. Featuring a variety of spaces for small and large gatherings, it can also be used as a meeting center. The space, together with the restaurant and the garden, meets Danone’s need to host all meetings and seminars in-house.

The Green Lung

The atrium plays a central role in creating a healthy working environment, an essential requirement for Danone. The prominent positioning of the staircase, designed as an element of socialization, makes it more attractive to employees, encouraging them to ditch the elevators, which are hidden from view. The air-purifying plants growing in the impressive vertical garden make the atrium truly the “green lung” of the building. In addition, the atrium is crucial to ensuring optimal air circulation, daylight, and social interactions among its users.

A Smart Office Building

Specifically designed to support Danone’s vision “One Planet. One Health”, the building achieved the highest ambitions in terms of sustainability and health, as demonstrated by the LEED Gold and WELL Gold certification. Sustainability measures, such as the use of recycled steel and recycled concrete, are paired with smart strategies essential to the physical and mental well-being of the employees. Materials are carefully selected on the basis of strict health criteria, the availability of sports facilities and green areas stimulates employees to exercise and spend time outside more often, and the canteen only serves healthy food.

From a technological standpoint, Danone’s office building is equipped with a smart grid (bGrid) that regulates, among other things, temperature, CO2 levels, and light. Innovative apps are available not only to control climate and light, but also to support smart working: apps such as “Find my colleague”, “Roombooking”, and “Workplace finding” reduce friction in the work environment and ensure an optimal and sustainable use of space and resources. These measures make Danone one of the most sustainable and healthy office buildings in the Netherlands.

A Sustainable and Healthy Campus

Danone’s head office and the new ASICS headquarters, also designed by Powerhouse Company, form a sustainable and healthy campus with shared facilities. Located above a half-underground parking garage, the campus has a spacious and lush garden for exercise and outdoor activities. The garden, with its winding walking routes and spacious lawn, was designed by landscape architect LAP Landscape and Urban Design. The development of the campus added the health theme to the profile of Beukenhorst South, already known as one of the most sustainable office parks in Europe.

“We let Danone’s motto ‘One Planet. One Health’ inspire us to design a building we are exceptionally proud of. The head office will create the perfect working conditions for a company that has made sustainability and health its core values. With its future-proof design and technologies, the building will foster growth and innovation, both on an individual level as well as for the company.” 

— Nanne de Ru, Founding Partner at Powerhouse Company