Toyota’s New Headquarters Plants Roots in Plano

Toyota’s New Headquarters Plants Roots in Plano

Winter 2018   PDF   Written by Kiley Jacques

Toyota’s new Lone Star State headquarters showcases the company’s singular vision of sustainability.

Toyota’s new corporate campus in Plano, Texas, is a physical manifestation of the company’s deep commitment to environmental sustainability and human well-being. The $1 billion Toyota Motor North America’s (TMNA) headquarters is the result of the “One Toyota” initiative to bring all of the company’s entities—engineering, sales, marketing, financial services, and corporate functions—together in one location with one vision.

Why Plano? “We carefully evaluated a wide range of factors before selecting Plano,” says corporate communications director Aaron Fowles, noting that their strategic rationale considered economics, geography, climate, transportation, cost of living, and educational opportunities. They also wanted a neutral site that did not already have a Toyota entity. “With manufacturing locations in many U.S. states, Canada, and Mexico, we chose a location that better supports our diverse geographic footprint, in a time zone that allows us to communicate better with most of our operations, and has direct flights to all our operations,” Fowles explains. It was important, too, that the campus be in a position to benefit the local residents. “We considered what our team members could gain from the local community and what we could contribute to that community,” says Kevin Butt, general manager of environmental sustainability.

Clouds are reflected in the glass panels of a light well in building E1 of Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. The well runs down through the middle of the building casting off natural light in office areas.

Clouds are reflected in the glass panels of a light well in building E1 of Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. The well runs down through the middle of the building casting off natural light in office areas.

Design Decisions

“The design came out of strong premises,” notes Chuck Armstrong, design director at Corgan, the architectural firm responsible for the project. “The first of which was to create a new environment for people who had never officed together—they were coming from California and New York and Kentucky into one place, so there were cultural differences in terms of what they were used to for work environments. We had to come up with something that was amenable for everyone. We also wanted to create a strong sense of place.” The team took cues from the topography to come up with the split-level arrangement between the common amenities building and the office buildings. “That gave us an opportunity to create unified spaces that connect all of the buildings together visually, symbolically, and metaphorically,” says Armstrong. Their idea was to replicate a natural wooded environment—which will be evident once the trees fill in—and native meadows and creeks. Allowing for views from nearly every interior space drove much of the design program as well.

Kirk Johnson, Corgan’s director of sustainable design, describes the campus as “a beacon and a magnet,” noting, “It was to be more than a campus located in North Texas, and more than a campus located in the United States. It was to be global in its outreach and perspective—design decisions were made with that in mind.”

Façades at Toyota’s Plano headquarters are clad in the same automotive glass the company uses on windshields.

Facades at Toyota’s Plano headquarters are clad in the same automotive glass the company uses on windshields.

Chuck Armstrong is the design director at Corgan architectural firm.

Chuck Armstrong is the design director at Corgan architectural firm.

Drought-resistant landscaping and an artificial creek are reflected in the glass exterior of the Commons building. Lantana grows along the creek fed by harvested rainwater.

Drought-resistant landscaping and an artificial creek are reflected in the glass exterior of the Commons building. Lantana grows along the creek fed by harvested rainwater.

 A two-story climbing wall is part of the fitness center

A two-story climbing wall is part of the fitness center

Model Maker

The two-million-square-foot, 100-acre Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum campus accommodates 4,500 employees and comprises seven buildings, a large central courtyard, and dining, fitness, and conference facilities. Multidisciplinary charrettes helped inform its design. “Rather than justify what we should do, we threw everything up on the board and went about justifying why we wouldn’t do something. It was a deductive kind of design process,” Butt explains, noting that energy efficiency and water use reduction were top of mind. The campus is meant to serve as a model for how the corporation, as a whole, will move into the future—with sustainability at the fore of all operations. “As a company, it’s part of our internal DNA to provide a product that is sustainable through its manufacturing as well as its use,” says Butt.

Notable campus features include an 8.79MW array of more than 20,000 solar panels that produce up to 33 percent of the campus’s daily electric needs; electricity not generated by the panels is purchased from Texas wind farms. Additionally, a flexible energy contract preserves and resells excess power generation back to the grid. The reduction in fossil fuel–driven carbon emissions is estimated at 7,198 metric tons annually.

A cistern water storage system has the capacity to hold 400,000 gallons of harvested rainwater, which will provide three months’ worth of water for landscape irrigation; and excess drain water will be collected and repurposed for sanitary facilities. A green roof also helps manage rainwater as well as reduce heat gain and insulate the buildings. All told, Toyota anticipates saving 12 million gallons of water annually—an important contribution in a drought-prone region.

Indigenous North Texas plants that grow in savanna conditions and wildflower meadows feature in the landscape—providing habitat for pollinators and Monarch butterflies. They’ve also protected four acres of native wetlands on the northeast corner of the campus, and are giving thought to using it as an insect garden. More than 80 mature trees were saved or relocated on site, including a 100-year-old oak tree, and approximately 1,300 trees were planted. A living wall serves as a popular lunch spot, and features a courtyard with a running stream and signage explaining indigenous plantings. “We are trying to encourage people to use these outdoor spaces and come into contact with the nature that is here,” Butt explains.

All structures have high-performance envelopes and high-efficiency lighting to reduce energy usage. Butt notes that the buildings enjoy a lot of natural light—even the innermost spaces—thanks to daylighting strategies, high-performance glass with low-E coating, and architectural eyebrows that help reduce solar heat gain. They also designed for collaboration. “We wanted this building to be a friendly environment that would encourage people to move into the open spaces to work together,” says Butt. The usual ratio of “me” to “we” space is 80:20. At TMNA, it’s 50:50—to support occupants’ well-being while increasing productivity.

Community Engagement

Part of the effort to employ sustainable systems includes increasing awareness. To that end, they’ve introduced an environmental sustainability program, Terra. The all-volunteer organization encourages interested individuals to help educate the rest of the campus and the greater community about their conservation efforts. “We are finding that it is a very hot topic for a lot of people,” notes Butt.

Since opening in May 2017, they have also partnered with Dallas’s On the Road Lending, an organization that provides low-interest auto loans and long-term financial mentoring to extend mobility to underserved populations. To help On the Road Lending scale up, Toyota developed three grants totaling over $1 million to improve the nonprofit’s processes, IT infrastructure, and service reach. In time, Toyota will also share its own operating principles to help the agency maximize resources and productivity.

Additionally, the company has entered into a multi-year partnership with the Texas Rangers as their official truck sponsor. Part of the agreement includes helping to implement more sustainable methods for maintaining their baseball field “and provide education tools for people who use the park,” Butt explains.

TMNA boasts a Texas-sized 8.79-megawatt array of more than 20,000 solar panels.

TMNA boasts a Texas-sized 8.79-megawatt array of more than 20,000 solar panels.

A rainwater harvesting system stores up to 400,000 gallons to use in irrigation.

A rainwater harvesting system stores up to 400,000 gallons to use in irrigation.

The new campus supports the company’s One Toyota vision with spaces that intentionally create and foster a transparent environment, encourage the fun of discovery, and make it a place where people want to come to collaborate and innovate.

The new campus supports the company’s One Toyota vision with spaces that intentionally create and foster a transparent environment, encourage the fun of discovery, and make it a place where people want to come to collaborate and innovate.

Global Efforts

To go beyond zero environmental impact and achieve a net positive impact, Toyota has set six challenges for itself, which together comprise the 2050 Environmental Challenge. The campus is approaching the year 2050 with five-year environmental action plans in place to realize sustainable development goals, which include: reaching zero emissions from vehicles, supply chain, and facilities; reducing water usage by maximizing efficiency; expanding recycling-based systems; and establishing a future society in harmony with nature.

Currently, they are taking measures to get on track with their goal of zero emissions—a significant challenge given their product. “We are constantly battling expansion versus total reduction of CO2,” notes Butt, pointing to the solar array as a step in the right direction. “We are looking at every aspect we can—from products to manufacturing to corporate operations to the greater business community, as well as more far-reaching communities such as the Galapagos Islands,” says Butt, explaining that Toyota and World Wildlife Fund have been working together for more than a decade to transform those islands into a model of community-based conservation and sustainable development.

With respect to future expansion of the Plano campus, they have considered pushing the envelope to include Living Building Challenge certification—something they are supporting with a $1 million donation to the Yellowstone Park Foundation for its new Yellowstone Youth Campus, a place for immersive youth programming meant to develop future conservationists. “What better place to educate the youth of the world about sustainability?” Butt muses.

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