Commercial Interiors for Houston Engineering
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Houston Engineering — Maple Grove, MN

Houston Engineering (HEI) provides a full range of civil engineering, environmental, planning, and consulting solutions for clients across the country. When they ran out of room in their Maple Grove, MN office, PlanForce helped design a new space that would accommodate future growth.

HEI Principal Bart Schultz knew they needed an office space that would help the company thrive over the next decade. So he engaged his staff to identify what that would look like. A committee surveyed employees to get a feel for what they were really looking for.

“Did they want more open, collaborative spaces where you didn’t have your workstation, where you would just sit down and work in an open area?” asked Schultz. “People didn’t like that. We’ve got a lot of scientists and engineers here, and they wanted their own defined space.”

Instead, employees said they wanted a modern, industrial-inspired space with open ceilings so the office wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. The final design is bold and energetic, with rich wood tones and furniture, carpeting, and finishes designed to complement HEI’s branding. The space planning includes a variety of areas to facilitate the different types of work done by HEI’s technical and management staff. There are traditional closed offices, along with a large, open work area with high-walled cubicles for heads-down work. The design also includes a number of telephone rooms where employees can make private calls and a wellness room.

Flexible and Innovative

Another important space within the office is the new training room, designed to host full staff meetings. Schultz wanted to make sure the training room was big enough to handle everybody, “so we weren’t looking in the window on our staff meetings.” The innovative space is also flexible enough to support more than one use. In addition to traditional training and high-top tables, the room features movable stadium seating. The training room is separated from the lunchroom by barn doors, allowing even more overflow when needed.

“People really like the space,” says Schultz. “It’s quite a change from where we came from. There’s been a lot of positive feedback, including from HEI staff coming from other offices.”

Lighting plays a strong role in making the space live up to its potential. In addition to selecting modern fixtures hung at an angle, PlanForce designers were focused on the effect the lights would have on the space. “Anything above 4000˚K would wash out the colors in their carpet and furniture,” says Architectural Associate Shawn Wochnick.

Reflecting on the project, Schultz is pleased with the result. “Elizabeth was a joy to work with. She really meshed well with our staff,” he says, referring to interior designer Elizabeth Lari, CID. “Working with engineers isn’t always that easy, as we’re more analytical than not. But it worked. Y’know, it really worked.”

People really like the space. It’s quite a change from where we came from. There’s been a lot of positive feedback, including from HEI staff coming from other offices.

Bart Schultz, Principal, Houston Engineering