Westchase District Businesses Reinvest, Reinvent Themselves in New Buildings | WESTCHASE DISTRICT

EHRA Engineering’s Jim Russ built work areas around a central plaza.

Jim Russ represents the “R” in EHRA Engineering. As the second generation of his family to be part of EHRA, Russ led the 83-year old engineering company into its biggest transition to date: new offices at 10011 Meadowglen. Having been in a company-owned building on Westoffice Drive for 32 years, EHRA moved into the newly-leased space at the beginning of January.

Meanwhile, Kelly Hall, CEO of Harvey Builders, was leading his company on a similar mission: to relocate their office into more square footage with nice amenities that would allow them to compete for top employees.  After 32 years in leased space on Westchase Drive, Harvey purchased the former Randalls corporate office building at 3663 Briarpark and gutted the building back to the studs.

“We created new entrances, a new canopy and brick interior walls giving the building a much more contemporary look,” said Hall. “We have all new air conditioning, new electrical and a new roof.”

All work spaces at Harvey Builders have windows that provide a view of Briarpark outside.

Designing features employees love
Both Hall and Russ sought employee engagement in determining the features and amenities of their new offices and both took advantages of the existing structure in their respective buildings to create offices and cubicles with lots of warm, natural light.

Russ pointed out the three rooftop skylights that bring natural light into EHRA’s new building. “That’s what I’ve always loved about this building. I’d never been here, but always admired it and thought it would be a good fit for us,” he said.

EHRA significantly reworked the interior of its new building, creating four color-coordinated pods to distinguish between the company’s business segments. The pods are located around the exterior of the building, leaving an open space downstairs and upstairs what EHRA calls the “Central Plaza.”

Natural light fills EHRA’s atrium and central plaza.

At EHRA, the cubicles are all placed near the exterior glass walls. Glass partitions on the upper walls of the cubicles attract light to flow through to the interior offices. The offices also have glass walls with sliding glass doors that allow natural light and maximize space. Light harvesters have been installed throughout the building so that lights dim automatically as the sun moves higher in the sky.

Both EHRA and Harvey Builders have multi-functional conference space in their respective buildings. Nine different conference rooms were created at EHRA. They can all be reserved through a central scheduling system. All feature magnetic, dry-erase boards, plus the latest technology, including giant flat screen monitors, Bluetooth technology and all carry names that are distinctly Houstonian: Skyline, Independence, Thirty-Four (in homage to Earl Campbell, Hakeem Olajuwon and Nolan Ryan.) Utilizing movable walls, the rooms can be combined to serve groups of up to 58. Another Westchase District business – DataVox – designed and installed next generation technology features.

Both businesses installed brand new sit/stand desks for all employees. In fact, very little furniture was moved from their previous locations.

“I’m not going to build beautiful new offices and bring all that old furniture and equipment,” said Russ. EHRA did move some vintage drafting tables, because you just can’t buy them anymore, according to Russ.

Amazing transformation: From Randalls’ original corporate headquarters to re-imagined spaces by Harvey at 3663 Briarpark.

Time to transform
Harvey Builders seized on the availability of the former Randalls building and made an off-market bid on the property. They’d spent 32 years in their previous location, continuously expanding from their original 4,000-square-foot lease. Leadership strategically planned the build-out of the 57,500-square-foot building.

Light there be light: drawing in natural light was key for both companies as seen in Harvey Builders’ lobby.

Updating the 1978 building was key. Like EHRA, they created conference rooms that, through the use of movable walls, can accommodate up to 200 chairs. “We have a hefty training program. It’s nice to be able to offer that in-house,” said Hall. The conference rooms feature lots of natural light, open ceilings and are anchored by garage doors, giving them an urban, contemporary feel. When the garage doors are raised, the space flows into the lobby and kitchen area, giving Harvey a large open space for trainings or social gatherings. Another eight small conference rooms exist throughout the building.

Harvey Builders’ large training component called for huge conference room spaces and clever design.

Both employers added fitness areas to their respective buildings. And while EHRA employees can take advantage of concessionaire-provided prepared foods, Harvey employees can stroll next door to Lockton Place’s deli.

Harvey’s Marketing Coordinator Megan Tatsch says the new building provides a dynamic, motivating environment. “It’s nice to come to a space that you like. A lot of thought went into creating this environment and my colleagues and I are very happy here,” said Tatsch.

“We did a lot of this for retention and recruitment,” said Russ. “Our competitors have congratulated us on this move. They said it makes it harder for them to recruit.”

While EHRA plans to grow into its building, Harvey Builders has 15,000 square feet of space available for lease on the ground floor. So act quickly if your business would like to take advantage of a this unique opportunity to move into brand-new space, courtesy of “Extreme Makeover: Office Edition.”

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