Home Green Design Marriott Covers All Green Bases with Its New Bethesda Headquarters

Marriott Covers All Green Bases with Its New Bethesda Headquarters

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Glenn Hasek

With its late 1970s vibe, Marriott’s previous headquarters was “like a cave,” Rado Ivanov told me this past week. Ivanov is Vice President, Global Design, U.S. & Canada for Marriott International. Marriott’s associates were located on just six floors.

I spoke with Ivanov about Marriott’s all new headquarters in downtown Bethesda, Md. The 21-story, 785,000-square-foot building, which just had its official opening, is light years from a cave and probably one of the most advanced headquarters buildings in the country. It is LEEDv4 Gold-certified (for Core & Shell), is aiming for LEEDv4 Gold for Commercial Interiors, and has earned a Fitwel 3-star rating. This is the highest rating achievable from Fitwel, a leading global health certification system. Marriott’s new headquarters building is the only one I am aware of in the hotel industry to be Fitwel rated.

Ivanov, who oversaw the design and construction of the new headquarters project the last 4.5 years, said it took six weeks to move everybody in. The new workplace will support over 8,100 hotels in 139 countries and territories around the world. An adjacent Marriott Bethesda Downtown is connected to the headquarters through underground parking and via an outdoor plaza that Marriott intends to name Sorenson Plaza, in honor of the company’s late CEO, Arne M. Sorenson, who passed away in 2021. He was highly involved in the design of the new headquarters.

Much attention was paid to making the headquarters a great place to work and a highly efficient building. Space was allocated in the headquarters building and in the new hotel for testing new innovations in design and technology.

Natural Lighting Maximized

“The entire building is occupancy and vacancy sensor driven,” Ivanov said. “Eighty percent of space is controlled by daylighting sensors. The shades are controlled centrally, depending on the daylight and the weather.” When powered lighting is not needed, it is automatically turned off. Maximizing the use of natural light was key for associates and for efficiency. Offices, including executive offices, line the core interior of the building, so each associate workstation comes with a view outside through floor-to-ceiling windows, and every desk has access to natural light. The light sensors tie into the building management system.

Ivanov said even the stairway spaces have daylight in them. “One has floor to ceiling glass,” he said. “They are not depressing spaces.”

Water stations and bathroom fixtures are low flow. A green planted roof assists with stormwater management. The plaza features pervious pavers to also assist with storm runoff.

Ivanov says indoor air quality (IAQ) was front and center, with attention heightened by the building’s construction during the pandemic. Antimicrobial surfaces, selection of materials, enhanced air purification and airflow speed result in a superior IAQ level.

Wellness Suite, Daycare Center & More

With one of its core values being “people first,” Marriott associates benefit from many features of the new building. Building amenities include a 7,500-square-foot state-of-the-art health and fitness center; a Wellness Suite which includes a lactation space, meditation rooms, massage chairs and treadmill desks; wellness, medical resources, and health advisors; and a nearly 11,000-square-foot childcare center for up to 91 children (from infant through age five), with approximately 6,600 square feet of outdoor covered space for all-weather play, among many other associate-focused features.

I mentioned space being allocated for testing new innovations in design and technology. The headquarters’ Design Lab is an 8,400-square-foot research and design lab, where Marriott’s partnerships and collaborations with forward-looking companies that touch every aspect of hospitality—from textiles to technology to service—are explored, product-tested, and further developed for scaling, first within its hotel brands, and eventually throughout the industry. Room27, the main Design Lab space, is named after the year of the company’s founding in 1927. It will be co-located with the F+B Design Studio, an approximately 4,400-square-foot fully functioning test kitchen and bar space, designed studio-style for onsite educational presentations, virtual food and beverage demonstrations, and testing the latest trends in culinary and beverage innovations from hotels around the world.

The adjacent hotel will serve as an extension of Marriott’s Design Lab, containing 13 sample “test rooms,” each customizable to reflect different brands. Dubbed Floor57 after the year the company first entered the lodging business, these active rooms are ready to deploy design, technology, and new product and service offerings with customers and other key stakeholders.

Ivanov says Marriott will be able to quickly mock up ideas and will use virtual reality technology to assist with this.

I have barely scratched the surface of the features of Marriott’s new headquarters. Kudos to the company for putting its people first and for wisely designing an environmentally efficient building with ample space for designing for the future.

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