Real-Life Facebook Connections

In September 2018, after just 18 months of construction, Facebook opened its second building at its Silicon Valley headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Frank Gehry of Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners LLP, designed both buildings. The new building, MPK21, mimics many aspects of the original MPK20 building, which opened in 2015. The single-floor, open-plan office space is located above at-grade parking and entry lobbies, and below an expansive green roof. However, at 524,000 square feet, MPK21 is nearly 100,000 square feet larger than MPK20, and is home to more than 2,800 employees.

LEED Platinum-certified building promotes teamwork, collaboration

By Marcy Marro

Photo: Brennan Photo Video

Outdoor Spaces

MPK21 sits on a heavily landscaped 22.7-acre section of the overall parcel. A half-mile meandering pathway runs the length of the building, and through a 3.6-acre rooftop garden with more than 200 trees. The middle of the structure has a sheltered central courtyard called the Town Square that is complete with restaurants, amenities and 40-foot-tall redwood trees. Connecting MPK21 to MPK20 is the Bowl, a sunken-garden, amphitheater-style courtyard.

According to Craig Webb, architect and partner at Gehry Partners, “Many of these details blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment, transforming an otherwise industrial site into something much greener and more invigorating.”

Luke Kohler, project manager at MG McGrath Inc., Maplewood, Minn., the project’s metal supplier and installer, adds, “The goal of the Facebook building was to create relaxing but social spaces to encourage teamwork, individuality and comfort. Elements of nature relaxed, while bright and vibrant colors peak curiosity and encourages thinking outside the box.”

Throughout the facility there are five unique dining options, 15 art installations commissioned from the artist-in-residence program, and a 2,000-person event and meeting space, complete with state-of-the-art audio/visual technology.

Photo: Brennan Photo Video

Open Workspace

In an effort to foster collaboration between teams, as well as provide quiet areas for focused work, open workspace was key to the design of MPK21. Gehry Partners has worked with Facebook to design three buildings in succession, and while there is rarely the opportunity to learn from each building as it is completed, Webb says the firm was able to spend two weeks doing post-occupancy interviews with users of MPK20 six months after they moved in. “We found that the circulation spaces in MPK20 were too near to the desk area and people moving through the building were disturbing people at their desks,” he explains. “In Building 21, we placed conference rooms between the circulation and desk areas. This has proven to be very effective and we are doing this in all of the buildings since then.”

Creating an open-office plan for the Facebook buildings promotes collaboration, while not letting anyone, even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder, to escape into an office. “Both indoor and outdoor social spaces are placed throughout the building to create opportunities for casual interaction,” Webb says. There are almost 20 acres of roof deck on the combined MPK20 and MPK21 buildings, which are a response to Zuckerberg’s desire to have somewhere he can walk and talk with collaborators, to do his one-on-ones. “This is an idea he adopted from Steve Jobs,” Webb explains.

Photo: Brennan Photo Video

Creative Colors

One of the goals for MPK21 was to build it faster. Using insulated metal panels allowed for quicker construction, while giving the buildings two different appearances, Webb says. Additionally, “The metal panels on MPK21 lent themselves to being colors, which allowed us to play with various industrial hues: John Deere green, international orange, primer red, etc.,” he adds.

Color plays a fun role in MPK21, with Gehry Partners using nine different bright and vibrant colors for different parts of the building. “The colors are derived from an industrial palette: forest greens, cool blues, deep reds and subtle shades of gray,” Webb continues. “The pink is a kicker to contrast with the others. We use this strategy to enhance the sculptural quality of the forms. Some of the volumes feature a light gray on one side and a darker tone on the next face, which is an optical trick that mimics the look of sunlight hitting the forms. These color choices are a direct way to engage with the people in the building. Everyone responds to color in a personal, emotional way, and there is definitely a humorous intent in our strategy.”

Photo: Brennan Photo Video

Metal Varieties

Metal wall and roof panels were selected for their longevity, durability, recyclability, sustainability and aesthetics. All in all, MPK21 features a total of 364,168 square feet of metal products, including 257,039 square feet of metal roofing. MG McGrath installed the metal wall and roof panels, soffit panels, corrugated polycarbonate panels, louvers, flashings and matching trim pieces.

The building features a variety of metal panels from Moon Township, Pa.-based CENTRIA, including 13,830 square feet of BR5-36 ribbed panels; 22,650 square feet of Style Rib panels; 1,525 square feet of 3/4-inch Econolap panels; and 50,000 square feet of standing seam metal panels. Additionally, MG McGrath installed 60,000 square feet of corrugated polycarbonate panels from Palram Americas, Kutztown, Pa., and a variety of colorful standing seam panels from MBCI, Houston.

MPK21 has peaked roofs that mimic the houses in the adjacent neighborhoods, although at a much larger scale. “Their primary benefit is to bring natural light to the middle of the building,” Webb explains. “Because natural light is critical to maintaining a pleasant and functional workspace, each of the peaks is a north-facing skylight.”

With all of the different shapes and angles in the project, Kohler says it was difficult to pick a universal panel system that would work for every aspect of the project, including the roofs, walls, gutters, soffit, etc., while still working functionally.

“The most unique part of the process was working through how all the odd shapes and slopes would match together,” Kohler explains. “Some pieces of the project had joints in odd places, required flat pieces to fit into a sloped wall, or had unconventional shapes. This made installation tough because everything not only had to line up correctly, but it had to fit very precisely together to still be weathertight and not leak. Every piece of this project was custom from the roofing to the walls to the louver, flashings, trim and gutters. It was also difficult to transition from one system to another (think wall panels to roof panels, or roof panels to custom drainage systems).”

The biggest challenge, Kohler says, was dealing with other contractors, architects and subcontractors who were all using different software programs. “Software, drawings, models and actual construction did not match up easily presenting the challenge of getting it all to coincide.”

Photo: Brennan Photo Video

Platinum Sustainability

The LEED Platinum-certified MPK21 has a number of sustainable features, including a reclaimed water system that will save 17 million gallons of water annually. SolarWorld Americas Inc., Hillsboro, Ore., supplied 1.4 megawatts of photovoltaic panels that generate nearly 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. Additionally, as part of its energy-saving goals, Facebook enrolled in Peninsula Clean Energy’s ECO100 energy option to reduce its carbon footprint, which in turn helps the city to achieve its climate action goals.