When the advertising agency Grey New York decided to move from a location they’ve occupied for 45 years, the new space had to meet a number of very specific criteria.

Photo Courtesy of Structure Tone

The company, whose clients include such heavy-hitters as Procter & Gamble and the National Football League, was founded in 1917. But its changing roster of clients demanded a modern facility. In addition, the company was purchased by the larger conglomerate WPP, whose CEO restructured the company. The move had to consolidate 1,200 employees, who formerly occupied 21 floors in private offices, to six open floors with a total reduction of 110,000 sq ft of space. The company chose the newly renovated 15-story building at 200 Fifth Avenue.

The design, completed by STUDIOSArchitecture, New York, called for the new space’s perimeter walls to be left raw. The 13-ft-high ceilings, which were originally clad in plaster with terra cotta arches on a steel structure, would be left exposed as well. This created design challenges for overhead utilities. The lighting plan was “skewed” from its normal 90-degree angle to accommodate the workspaces, presenting challenges for subcontractors. Additionally, the whole project had an emphasis on reclaimed materials, in an attempt to score LEED Gold.

The move also had to happen in less than a year.

“One of the most difficult things to do was managing the schedule and turnover dates,” says Robert Leon, vice president of Structure Tone, the general contractor on the project. “We were running six floors simultaneously, and as we got toward the end, we were turning over floors every week or two.”

The toughest part of the project, he added, was the second floor, which had the main presentation areas and a grand staircase, the focal point of Grey’s office space.

“When we got to the last month of the job, we were working six days a week 15 hours a day to make sure we met their move-in dates,” Leon says.

The base building has LEED Gold certification, and the Grey portion of it is awaiting certification. The construction team went for 75% waste management, but achieved 83%. In addition, they increased water efficiency, energy use on the atrium side, and implemented an education program within the Grey corporation.

Another LEED element was the use of cork, but because it is normally used for flooring, putting it on walls added to the complexity. The team had to make several mockups to make sure everything lined up. The same went for the reclaimed wood, used not only decoratively but to build furniture, necessitating long lead times while dealing with a vendor that was not used to working that way.

The entire move occurred on a weekend, and the staff was able to start on Monday completely prepared, commenting on how smoothly it went and how intuitive the layout was. It wasn’t just the staff, however.

Leon says he invited his wife, who does not work in an office setting, to see the project toward the end. “She said, ‘If I had to work in an office, it would be in a place like this.’”

Key Players

Developer/Owner: Grey Group
General Contractor: Structure Tone Inc., New York, N.Y.*
Architect: STUDIOS Architecture, New York, N.Y.

*Submitted Project to New York Construction