Toyota North American HQ – MC Walnut Flooring & Paneling

Reclaimed Walnut Paneling at Toyota's new Plano, Texas Headquarters

Project: Toyota North American HQ Slideshow >

Location: Plano, Texas

Designer: Corgan

ProductsMC Walnut Engineered Flooring & Paneling

For the 2.1 million square foot new Toyota headquarters, Corgan was tasked with creating a unifying space. They needed to bring together previously segregated by location departments in a manner that would encourage innovation, collaboration and connection while maintaining a focus on sustainability.

The design team was challenged but not daunted. They created a unique system called the 50/50 Breakdown as a way to measure placement and space allotment for work areas and areas for connection. They strove for an even balance with an emphasis on unifying those locations by making the ‘spaces between the spaces’ naturally flow and inspire ‘unplanned collisions’.

TerraMai’s MC Walnut Engineered Flooring & Paneling can be found in several of the communal spaces like the fitness center and commissary. Access to fitness and good nutrition are part of Toyota’s wellness program. And, wood has been shown to inspire occupants to be more social which further helps Toyota foster a connected workforce.


Interview with Lauren Whitney, IIDA, Vice President at Corgan

Lauren Whitney, VP at CorganLauren Whitney is a Texas Registered Interior Designer WELL AP LEED AP Interior Design & Construction Current managing commercial interiors for Corgan in Dallas. TerraMai Account Manager, Scott Purdue, interviewed Lauren about her role in this project. Visit our blog to read about the new Toyota HQ project in Plano, Texas.

What was your role on the project?

I was the project manager for the interiors. I am the main point of contact for the interiors portion of the project, liaison to Toyota and KDC, and I’m ultimately in charge of the financials for the project, the final documents going out, and overviewing the design. 

How did it feel that Corgan was selected for the project, and now after the grand opening and many years of hard work, how does it feel having a successful project?

It’s been great! It’s been, honestly, a wild, fast-paced ride. We were excited to continue on with them at their permanent headquarters. [Corgan also designed the temporary offices used before move-in]

Toyota has been leaders in their field in sustainability. What project goals were set by Toyota? Did they have a say in specific systems they wanted, or did they set certain metrics to be met by any means possible?

Yes, and yes. There was a sustainability charrette and visioning session that we went through with Toyota. I didn’t manage the sustainability portion, but we were integral in making sure that the products selected to go into the building upheld the goals that they were going for - which was LEED Platinum for the facility, and from what I understand we are currently on track to achieve that.  

What was the biggest challenge in going for LEED Platinum? Were there any compromises that had to be made along the way?

Oddly enough, yes there were some compromises, but since the duration of the project was so long a lot of the items that were taken out in the beginning kind of found their way back in, solar panels being one of those. In the initial design, they had an interest in the solar panels, and after some of the preliminary budgeting exercises, they were taken off the table.  They gladly found their way back into the project, and there are PV – Photovoltaic panels on top of every parking garage [which] generate a lot of energy for the campus. 

It was a response to a lot of decisions trying to be made at once. I think everyone was interested in doing it, but we had to prioritize the decisions and luckily Toyota was open to reevaluating different sustainability initiatives throughout the project. I wasn’t just a one-and-done, it was constantly trying to improve the process and the project through the final deliverables.

Besides some of the larger systems (solar panels, rainwater catchment), what were some more unique or innovative design solutions that you find particularly interesting?

For the interiors, I think one of the biggest challenges for us is where they have the amenities loop. It is kind of submerged into the site, so one whole side of it doesn’t have access to daylighting. There were a lot of skylights that were strategically placed throughout the project on the lower levels to make sure that we had lighting into those spaces. We did a lot of solar study to figure out where were the most appropriate places for those. Walking through the campus now, I can’t imagine not having the skylights because they make such a big difference for the interiors. 

Other than the reclaimed wood on the project, were there other recycled or natural materials used, and was there a way that you brought nature into the project?

Yes, so there were multiple ways. We kept a pretty diligent spreadsheet on every single material on the project to make sure we were meeting the levels of VOCs and toxins to meet the LEED Platinum requirements, but also just to make sure we were picking the healthiest choices that we could for the campus. The FSC certified wood was a big one for us, and we really tried to watch that. In the dining facilities we have a recycled countertop that has recycled glass that comes from car windshields, recycled bottles, recycled stoplights, and it’s a really beautiful installation. 

The incorporation of biophilia into the space was something that we wanted to achieve. We do have a living green wall that is back in the amenities loop in the dining/seating area. That space is probably my favorite from a sustainability point of view. 

What were some key principals or takeaways that you may be able to use for future projects?

There are so many! From a workplace/design point of view, which is heavily what I was involved with, we really strove to have a 50/50 breakdown – looking at having fifty percent private work area, which would be where the workstations and the private offices would be – and fifty percent shared amenity type space where people can go work anyplace. We kept a very tight equation making sure we were hitting that metric – do we have enough balance of space, between workspace and shared space throughout the campus? That’s definitely a challenge I’ve never had on a project – to try and hit that type of metric, and really pay detailed attention throughout the entire project. Typically, we’re given a very specific program and we’re hitting those numbers, we’re hitting those quantities of spaces. We helped recommend that [the 50/50 breakdown] would be the right solution for them. The whole team bought into it and made sure it was implemented. So, I think that’s the neatest thing about the campus. It’s 2.1 million square feet, but it’s not 2.1 million square feet of office space. There are a lot of spaces between the spaces, little areas you can discover and poke into, or have a moment to jump away from your office to change the way that you work. 

On One Toyota 

Since they were coming from multiple locations and a lot of the team members hadn’t worked in the same city before, we were really trying to make it where – instead of design by departments and siloed sections – which would just repeat what they previously had - being in separate offices, etc. – they were trying to achieve these interaction points, these collision points across the campus, to just be able to organically foster that collaboration.

What is going on at Corgan right now that is exciting you?

I’m still currently working on Toyota, which will continue on for a few more months, but we are doing a renovation and addition of our headquarters office here in Dallas. So that is exciting, and the progress we are going to make here – having more workspace and extended workspace – which is similar to what I was talking about with Toyota – with having a better balance between the workspace and some collaboration areas here that we are looking forward to. We’re also pursuing the WELL Building Standard, we’re registered for that, and I have been leading up that effort here. I am a WELL accredited professional, and this is the third project that we worked on that is seeking the certification, so that has been something that I am excited about here personally with Corgan and am hoping to implement in future projects with clients as well. 

It’s a really exciting process. I’m a big fan of LEED, but WELL just takes it to the next level. It makes it more centered around the user. 

Do you see Corgan moving that way in the future, and industry-wide do you see that as being the most important certification?

They’re designed to work together, so I think that the goal is for them to work in tandem. I do see, for clients that are interested in the wellness benefits and the PR benefits, I anticipate there being a shift in remaining closer to WELL. A lot of that has to do with the fact that LEED was on the forefront of trying to get us to think differently about how we construct healthy spaces, and a lot of that, in my opinion, was because our industry was behind where it needed to be, and I feel like since LEED has come out it’s really pushed green codes, green ordinances for cities, and helped them understand how they can update the requirements for everyone. So, I feel that there’s been a big change because of LEED, so from a client perspective we’re not seeing as much of a push for getting the plaque on the wall, but rather doing the right thing and go ahead and meet the requirements of LEED without going for the certification. So, I think WELL will be similar in that way – that it’s new and people aren’t [for example] thinking about the nourishment and the food applications in the office space. I think it will be a shift in our culture, that WELL is going to bring that awareness in the same way that LEED did.

Anything we didn’t discuss that would be valuable for the Toyota project?

There are so many things! I’m always fascinated when I’m out there, the site is just so big, and the square footage is so overwhelming on paper, but when you’re out there it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like a little community, and that was a really nice achievement to see – that it feels like an appropriate scale, and it’s not overwhelming. We wanted it to feel understated, but not avant-garde, and I feel like the architecture and interiors team did achieve that.


Visit our blog to read about the new Toyota HQ project in Plano, Texas.


Lauren Whitney continues to work on winding down the Toyota project. Up next on her agenda is a project close to home – the wellness implementation within the renovation and expansion of the Dallas Corgan offices. The building will attempt WELL certification, in which Whitney will again bring her expertise to the table, and if history indicates, will have no problem tackling the high goals set for the project.

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