Microsoft’s New SV Campus Aims for Maximum Green

The major facility now under construction could be the first tech campus to achieve net zero, non-potable water use. Moreover, the buildings will be designed to meet LEED Platinum certification and will feature solar panels, a "living" roof and more.

Microsoft campus
Microsoft campus

Microsoft’s new Silicon Valley Campus, a 643,000-square-foot “modernization” of the tech giant’s 32-acre location in Mountain View, Calif., will be the company’s “smartest, greenest office yet,” according to a blog post earlier this week by Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott.

As wildfires rage, yet again, across Southern California, and as damage claims from the October wildfires in Northern California top $9 billion, it’s timely that one of the campus’s top design priorities is something the state never seems to have enough of—water. The biggest part of that will be achieving net zero non-potable water certification under the Living Building Challenge. If Microsoft can pull that off, it reportedly will be the first tech company to achieve this certification.

Certification under the Living Building Challenge requires actual building performance demonstrated for 12 consecutive months in areas including water, energy and materials. The standard also allows “scale jumping,” to encourage cooperation between neighboring buildings.

The campus’s integrated water management system will operate under the principle of putting non-potable water into service more than once. “One hundred percent of the buildings’ non-drinking water will come from rainfall or on-site recycled water. This will be a first in Silicon Valley,” Pauline Souza, partner with WRNS Studio Architecture & Planning, San Francisco, said in an online presentation.

Some rain water will be retained on the 4-acre green roof, while the remaining rain water, including that collected from paved areas, along with waste water, will be collected, treated and stored onsite before being used for irrigation and plumbing. Furthermore, except for drinking fountains and sinks, none of the water for more than 2,000 employees, 15 acres of landscape and 643,000 square feet of built space will come from municipal sources.

More than one element

Water is not the only factor in play, Scott wrote. The buildings are designed to meet LEED Platinum certification: solar panels will provide energy and the 4-acre living roof will support native species in the area adjacent to the Stevens Creek habitat. In addition, construction will feature sustainably sourced cross-laminated timber and exposed finishes throughout the campus.

Many buildings start with a design concept and work backwards to mitigate harm to the local ecosystem and natural resources. Our design started with a different goal in mind—could we design a building that was actually beneficial and restorative to the local ecosystem?” Darren Lombardi, design and construction Manager for the campus, said in the presentation.

To promote collaboration and productivity, a “neighborhood and courtyard concept” will make it easy for employees to move from outdoor to indoor spaces. And natural light through a glass exterior will be accessible from anywhere on campus.

Renovated dining facilities will provide healthy meal options as part of Microsoft’s commitment to the WELL Building standard. And true to the company’s reputation, the campus will also feature athletic fields and a new onsite employee fitness facility.

The new campus is expected to be ready for occupancy in December 2019.

A couple of months ago, Microsoft unveiled new plans for a San Antonio data center in Alamo City, Texas.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft