Clif Bar, the outdoor spirit inside

This post was written by Andrea Paoletti

Before arriving in San Francisco i didn’t know anything about Clif Bar. Then, after speaking to people at the Hub SoMa about my interest to visit interesting office spaces, I was suggested to go to Clif Bar’s Headquarters.

Clif Bar is a leading company in the nutritious, all-natural, organic foods and drinks for sport and healthy snacking space. They actively pursues sustainability using five bottom lines – aspirations: its business, its brands, its people, its community and the planet.

You can watch a video where Kevin Cleary, president and COO, talks about Clif Bar’s business and socially responsibility. 

Clif Bar is a company making large strides to make their businesses more green. They have started incentive programs such as The Cool Home and the Cool Commute Programs, which encourage employees to make energy efficient improvements to their houses and leave their cars at home.

One of the goals of the company was to create a work place that was green and sustainable in many ways.

Using an existing building as their new headquarters fit into those principals, the new 115,000-square foot headquarters (housing 197 Bay Area employees) in Emeryville used to be an old valve manufacturing plant during World War II. It has become a prime example for retrofitting and proper conversion to an environmentally-friendly building.

Clif Bar’s green building, designed by ZGF Architects, wants to facilitate its business and manufacturing goals, contributing to the health of its employees and providing a strong community connector to the city of Emeryville.

The glass garden walls plus extensive exterior and clerestory windows, flood the open floor plan with natural light. Using outdoor light minimizes the amount of energy spent on artificial light. A 530 kilowatt rooftop solar array (1900 270 watt smart panel modules- they say can generate 6 to 8 percent over standard photovoltaic systems) aim to provide enough power for the entire building, harnessing just the sun.

There is also a solar thermal on the roof providing 70 percent of the heat needed for hot water. The building has a biophilic interior design in order to bring the outside world into the workspace with atrium gardens integrated into the interior of the office space and bring sunlight and rain to the plants and greenery in the gardens.  The space is also equipped and comfortable enough for employees to hold meetings in an outside environment.

Reused materials can be found throughout the new headquarters. Much of the wood was reclaimed from sources such as container crates, railroad ties and barns, while recycled denim was used to make 380 sound-absorbing panels. Repurposed bikes, kayaks, snowboards and surfboards serve as artwork suspended from the ceiling. The door handles on offices and conference rooms along the wall are made of recycled bike frames. It is absolutely beautiful!

The outdoor spirit that is part of the Clif Bar’s tradition is reflected in some employee perks such as a full gym, full-time personal trainers, a yoga room, and a climbing wall. On-site bike parking, two massage rooms and a hair salon are also available.

The building also houses a 6,700 square foot childcare center. The center consists of spaces designed inside and out for five distinct age groups. A music room, fitness toys and outdoor playground help to provide kids with a balance of structure and personal free time.

Organic breakfast and lunch meals are provided in Kali’s Kitchen (chefs used to work in the division that created new Clif bars), an employee-operated lunch room that sources organic ingredients from regional farms. Adding to the community feel of the space is a theater that houses an elevated stage, customizable lighting, professional sound board and seating for 350 people.

Employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work, get two and a half hours of paid exercise each week, and have access to free personal training.

Gary Erickson, founder and co-CEO of the energy-bar giant, said in a press release. “This space is what Clif people have built – it’s more than a headquarters, it’s a home to their inspiration and passion to do business in a better way.”

This space serves as an inspiration and reflection of my design principals that I use with people and space design. I always ask myself,  is the work space well designed to inspire creative ideas and for the people who use it everyday? Is there any inspirational place inside there? I know that the cubicles have low partitions, and that was created to give a community feeling to the workers, but is it innovative? I truly believe that Clif Bar has done a good job so far but from the collaborative environment point of view there are many ways to improve the space. Building a gym is a good point, but can we offer a gym and office space by connecting the goals together? Why don’t  we try to think out of the box even in the space design? I think there is too much order inside of their “box”, I suggest adding a bit of chaos and trying to be brave about it too!

Go, Clif Bar, Go!

Check out this time-lapsed video that shows the three-month building process in few minutes. It’s amazing!


One thought on “Clif Bar, the outdoor spirit inside

  1. Pingback: Frontiera passata. « 1-2-3-via!

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