We decided that of the most eye-catching elements of this building should be a towering staircase. We envisioned one that functioned beautifully and strategically. Next to the elevator, starting in the lobby with a high degree of glass and natural light, we drew these stairs larger: their landings bigger and finishes nicer. We wanted this staircase to be a communal meeting space where people and their ideas could almost literally bump into each other.
TTCU Federal Credit Union
Financial & HQ Corporate
It was right before the holidays. Tom Auer, NewGround SVP of architecture, was one of the few employees still working in the office. Little did he know, a General Contractor from Tulsa was about to find his contact information via a drawing he’d made for an Oklahoma Credit Union years before.
He was happy to take their call. The contractor filled him in: They had a potential credit union project in Tulsa where their client had put a footprint on a site. They could neither confirm the client’s name, nor the role NewGround might play. Auer and Kevin Blair, President and CEO of NewGround, put together a presentation and met with what turned out to be the building committee of TTCU The Credit Union a few weeks later.
This project was going to be extensive, and NewGround’s roster of in-house abilities was a selling point. From strategy to design to build to interior design, our company could see the project all the way through and TTCU saw value in that alignment. We were awarded the business, and the subsequent work is brand-building creativity both parties will be proud of for years to come.
TTCU’s employees were spread across town in buildings, basements and other disparate office spaces. The time had come to bring them all together in a single structure, driven by efficient design. This space needed to foster communication and a community work environment.
We started with strategic planning: market research, headquarter planning and peer comparisons. As an employee hub, one of the most important pieces we needed to define immediately was size. What square footage was needed for the long term 10-15 years of growth? We looked at the current size of the institution, the pace of the Oklahoma marketplace, and if TTCU was projected to grow at that pace or faster.
We also sent out a 6-page departmental survey, asking each team to verbalize their views on adjacency, the pros and cons of their current environment, and how many additional staff members they foresaw hiring.
With this research in-hand, we were ready to embark upon a two-day Discovery session. This exercise proved to be incredibly informative, starting with who was invited. TTCU CEO Tim Lyons made sure to include his entire management team. He pragmatically identified these people as the ones who would grow into leadership roles, and saw the sense in asking the future decision-makers what they’d like to see. What we heard over and over was the need for more space to collaborate. But there’s more to collaboration than building space. And that’s where NewGround strategy meets NewGround design.
Having synthesized learnings from the Discovery session, we created an Idea Book. With sign off on it from TTCU, we were off to the races. As with any project, our strategist began to work side-by-side with our architect. Where did it make the most sense for employee offices to be? As a brand that prized collaboration, how could we best exemplify that in space?
We thought about how these stairs would fit into the TTCU employee’s daily journey. We asked: After using these stairs, if a conversation were to start, where would they want to go? We drew up huddle spaces off each floor next to these stairs, where 2-3 people could sit and hash out their thoughts. These agile spaces removed the need to schedule a conference room for an impromptu meeting. Not to mention that with the new open-office planning, these rooms provided a quieter place to convene.
We concluded that the Title company needed to live on the first floor. It was the most likely to have some off-hours, and its staff members would need the easiest path to entering and exiting the building.
We then turned our thoughts to the IT department and one of the most important elements of any credit union: the server room. This new building would serve as TTCU’s primary site with all new servers and racks. We chose to employ SmartRow™: an enclosed system that combines up to six data center racks. These racks are kept safe with precision cooling, fire suppression and monitoring/control technologies that alert IT to a change in temperature, which they can then address remotely.
With the bigger structure elements being fleshed out, it was time to turn to interior design. Our team took TTCU to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, IL. This historic building houses showroom after showroom of the latest fabrics, furnitures and finishes. We think it’s prudent that our clients be involved in this process. After they’ve made decisions, with our guidance, we do our due diligence and let them know what that means when it comes to budget.
All of this happened seamlessly as NewGround is a certified dealer in both the Kimball and Knoll lines. We purchase and install the systems ourselves and know the importance of getting every little detail correct.
Approaching a finalized design, there were some big decisions that had to be made. TTCU wanted a visible building and knew that a simple way to achieve this was through height. The team contemplated a taller building, but we knew that any highrise measuring more than 75 feet incurred a new level of building code criteria. We were able to guide them to the conclusion that this height restriction would lead us to a logical stopping point. In addition, our initial research regarding employee growth showed that 6 stories could house all of their current employees, keeping two floors completely open and available for future growth.
We took a look at our showpiece staircase and decided that it would serve the height of the building, all 6 stories, and continue up even past the roof. True to this design, the staircase is the tallest and most prominent piece of the building and showcases TTCU branding with an artfully placed logo on three sides.
Being located in tornado alley, we wanted to provide additional protection for the Credit Unions’ most precious assets—their employees. So we reinforced segments on the first floor with concrete block to make a safe space during tornado watches.
We worked inspiredly. TTCU CEO Tim Lyons, also a seasoned welder, visited the steel manufacturing facilities with us, even signing one of the beams with a welding torch. The build began with an epic 65 foot drill down under each of the 31 columns to create support in poor soil. We hope the bonds TTCU employees will form, finally able to grow in the same space, will prove to stand equally as solid.