Tech on Display: Red Hat Boston
“It’s all about being open and collaborative.” So said Jan Mark Holzer, senior consulting engineer at technology firm Red Hat, while giving a tour of the company’s new Boston offices. While his comment referred to the office design, he may as well have been talking about Red Hat’s business itself.
The company is a global leader in what’s called “open-source” technologies, or an approach to software development in which the source code is shared openly so that other software developers can collaboratively work together to improve and advance the technology. Red Hat’s Boston-area team works hard to help its clients take advantage of open-source technology, but their suburban office 40 miles northwest of Boston made it difficult to invite customers to see their work in person or to attract the best and brightest talent.
“It was part of our own evolution as a company,’’ says Danny Seaton, Red Hat’s senior director of Global Workplace Solutions, Americas. “We started developing back-office solutions in a closet. But as the dynamics of our business have changed and we realized where open source could take us, we also had to think strategically about where we needed to be and make the appropriate investment.”
PRESERVING THE HISTORY
That investment became Red Hat’s new Executive Briefing Center, Open Innovation Labs & Engineering Lab in Boston’s “Innovation District.” Transforming a former candy manufacturing plant, the new 40,000sf space reflects Red Hat’s modern brand image, but also maintains the historical integrity of the building, seamlessly blending the 150-year-old building’s original brick-and-beam construction with ultra-modern technology.
To maintain the aesthetic but improve the structural integrity of the building, the Structure Tone team used both new steel and “sistering” of new and old beams for additional bracing. They also considered the sound attenuation of an open, brick-and-wood space, including acoustical spray, sound masking and “floating” floors where the wood was installed over gypcrete and a padding substrate.
All that new steel meant moving in huge pieces of materials. Rather than rely on the freight elevator, the team removed the windows and hoisted up steel as needed—which came in handy for other elements as well. “We took advantage of such a large opening while we had it,” says Structure Tone project manager Carl Frank. “We used that opportunity to move in all the materials for the stairs and the large A/V quilt wall as well.”
EMBRACING THE FUTURE
Equally important was ensuring the new space showcases the nature of the company’s work—which means technology is everywhere. An integrated system of touchscreens connects to a master technology “ecosystem” to allow collaboration and connectivity across the office, no matter where you are. To make that ecosystem work without sacrificing the office’s aesthetic, the Structure Tone team neatly organized the cabling to run between exposed ceilings and inaccessible hard ceilings as well as connect to multiple IDF closets.
“We worked really closely with the project team,” says Frank. “We were constantly on the phone or at the site with the audio/visual designers and the architects and engineers to adjust the system designs to make sure those systems would be built effectively and efficiently.”
While the abundant technology is functional for staff and clients, it also communicates what makes Red Hat special. “There’s not a lot of Red Hat branding here,” says Holzer. “It’s really a very subtle and reinforcing message of technology through the video room, all the touchscreens, the brand new technologies. We even pushed our own IT people a little out of their comfort zone.”
So far employees and customers alike have been singing the office’s praises.
“It’s definitely helped establish us as a serious enterprise player,” says Holzer. “Many customers have come back multiple times already.”
In fact, according to Red Hat, the company averaged 75 customer visits a year to its suburban office. In just the first six months of opening the downtown space, they have had 110 customer visits, plus hosted over 40 large-scale events.
As Red Hat puts it, technology thrives in the open. Their new hub in Boston’s Innovation District is proving just that.
Client: Red Hat
Architect: IA Interior Architects
MEP Engineer: AKF Group
A/V Consultant: Downstream
Owner’s Rep: Colliers International
Services: Construction Management
Completion: June 2017
Photos courtesy of Robert Benson Photography.