Principal – Campus Master Plan

Des Moines, Iowa
  • Client
  • SQ. FT.
    2.3 million
  • Market
  • Year

In 2011, OPN started working with Principal to redesign its corporate headquarters in downtown Des Moines. Our work began as 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. We began by 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 environment and work practices.

We know that the workplace of tomorrow will be remarkably different from office spaces of the past. Advances in technology that were inconceivable a decade ago are radically changing the corporate landscape. Leadership at Principal embraced the prospect of designing its flagship campus to meet the demands of tomorrow. The team conducted an 18-month expedition to articulate a vision for the future. Twenty-two parallel work streams were established to examine facets of Principal as diverse as recruitment, flexibility, inclusiveness, collaboration, wayfinding, and the impacts of mobile technologies. The result was a comprehensive plan to modernize Principal’s campus to meet the needs of the future.

Principal has since retained OPN Architects as the firm to implement the plan. The work addresses more than 2.3 million square feet of spaces, with the final phase set to be completed in 2019.

Unique features:

  • Drop-in rooms
    Various-sized rooms are available within each neighborhood to accommodate impromptu meetings that can range from two people to entire teams. By design, none of the rooms can be scheduled in advance. Many team leaders use the rooms for one-on-one meetings, and employees are encouraged to use the rooms as needed to conduct personal business privately throughout the work day.
  • Flexible desks
    Each of the new desks is height-adjustable, giving employees the flexibility to work from a standing position if they wish, or simply to tweak the positioning of the desk to best suit them ergonomically. The majority of the desks are unassigned, and each is equipped with dual monitors and a docking station for laptops and mobile devices. New furnishings were purchased for all the renovated spaces, which incorporate all-new flooring and ceilings as well.
  • Independent work chairs
    Principal has found that people often tend to like working near where other people are collaborating, even if they’re working on something independently.  So the redesigned areas include “Brody” chairs — nicknamed “the bathtub” by some employees — that provide a semi-enclosed space with an adjustable laptop holder that can be pulled up to the chair.
  • Kitchenettes
    Each floor in the renovated building has a kitchenette that provides a space for getting coffee or a meal as well as an additional place to meet or to get work done independently.  It’s a communal space for employees to be able to come together and eat and work.
  • Art gallery
    The art gallery provides another space where employees can work and conduct meetings, or just get some inspiration. Different pieces are rotated in on a regular basis so that the space is always changing. Each building within Principal’s redesigned campus buildings will have an art gallery.
  • Telehealth kiosk
    A private room is equipped with a telehealth station that employees can use to get answers to health questions, check their blood pressure or even connect by videoconference with a health care professional for a quick consultation about a minor illness. A fully equipped pharmacy is located next door to the kiosk so that employees can easily pick up a prescription they’re getting filled.
  • Informal spaces
    Informal seating areas between a grouping of conference rooms and the cafe, for instance, give employees a convenient place to go if they’re in between meetings. The work cafe’s coffee shop was purposely located next to this area so that employees can grab a refreshment quickly between meetings or on the way back to their work area.
  • Common design language
    Even though each of the buildings looks very different from the outside, once you get inside them, they will share similarities from space to space in the finishes.


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