Principal Financial Group, Community & Design Award Winner

Iowa Architectural Foundation has named Principal Financial Group a 2021 Community Enhancement Through Architecture & Design Awards Winner.


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The award honors individuals, organizations, companies, and groups outside of the architectural profession who have shown consistent and compelling leadership, vision, and support for architecture, contributing to improving Iowa communities. Quality architecture and intentional urban design have a significant impact on a community’s function, affecting the environment, economy, health, culture, and identity.

“Principal invested so much in downtown Des Moines when very few others were investing. It could be argued that they have had a more sustained positive impact on the city of Des Moines and downtown than any other company or any combination of companies. They’ve spoken publicly about how they want to make the community greater, while at the same time they want to have fabulous employees that are drawn to live in Des Moines. They have certainly done that.” – Jury Member Comment

After building its campus in 1939, Principal Financial Group’s most recent campus renovation started in 2011 with the Campus Master Plan. OPN kicked off this project through a straight-forward study of the campus environment with the goal of modernizing existing facilities and consolidating open space. With leadership from Principal, the design team embarked on an intensive discovery process. OPN began analyzing the existing campus and buildings while concurrently conducting in-depth conversations with Principal about history, culture, work practices and the company’s vision for the future. It quickly became clear that Principal had an opportunity to re-imagine its work methods, environment, and community.

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Since these initial efforts, OPN has successfully completed multiple other projects in the campus renovation. The Executive Conference Center is located on the 16th floor of the 801 Grand building, and is Iowa’s tallest structure. Principal had one simple request for the center: create an environment worthy of an elite financial investment group while reflecting the strong corporate values of a Midwest company. Designed to highlight the client’s values, this corporate conference center is a highly-refined space with a strong sense of warmth, elegance, and stability.

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OPN also renovated the “Z” Building, or 750 Park. Opening in two phases, one half of the building was completed in 2014, and the other half in 2015. The goal of the redesign was to better accommodate collaborative work, offering employees more spaces to work together while maintain spaces to also work independently. This concept is centered around their change in work culture. About three out of four Principal employees are physically in the office on any given day, and many of them spend a significant amount of hours in meeting rooms away from their desks.

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The city-block size campus at 711 High was completely gutted and remodeled creating a space that will serve Principal for another 100 years while still respecting and restoring much of the art-deco materials and character. The building thoughtfully blends history, modern design, and a cutting edge workplace strategy that will attract and retain world-class talent, an important initiative in design for the Principal leadership. Throughout the design and construction, sustainability was always at the forefront. OPN guided Principal in the development of a sustainability strategy for the renovated building and as well as day-to-day operations. Energy models informed architectural and mechanical system material selections and performance requirements. Because of these efforts, LEED Gold certification was awarded.

Along with their campus, Principal Financial Groups has also significantly enhanced the Greater Des Moines area being apart of many development projects in downtown Des Moines. The most prominent project is the joint venture between the City of Des Moines and Principal Financial Group, the Principal Riverwalk. A 1.5-mile waterfront pedestrian loop and multi-purpose trail spans the Des Moines River between the city’s downtown and State Capitol districts for locals and visitors alike. The Riverwalk provides a path for hike and bike trails through Des Moines’ downtown. This project also included new plazas, promenades, tree plantings, seating areas, pavilions, artwork and gardens that all improved access to the Des Moines River, catalyzing growth along what was once an underutilized riverfront. The 80-year sustained effort to promote, serve, and excel the Des Moines community makes Principal well deserving of this recognition.