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Building a Healthy Office, Community, and Future


Maintaining a healthy and happy work environment while improving productivity is the direction companies are leaning heading into 2023. The truth is, with the world working from home for a lengthy period of time, getting those employees back into the office will take some incentive changes. Work areas are turning into flexible, pod-area layouts, new office construction is being built closer to community engagement opportunities, and the overall health of the building is getting revamped.

These three factors were taken into consideration when building the Apex Plaza building in Charlottesville, VA. As Virginia’s first and tallest large-scale mass timber building, it totals over 265,000-SF. The project includes 151,000 -SF of office space, a 102,000-SF podium concrete parking structure, and 6,800 SF of retail space. Hourigan’s Charlottesville office currently resides in Apex Plaza. The benefit of an updated work layout, built in the heart of the community, and a sustainable structure built for the future, made it easy for most to come back to office life.

Healthy Office Environments

Many companies have already embraced the open floor plan office structure by limiting the number of individual closed-door offices and moving towards more flexible and pod-style workspaces.


At Apex Plaza there are many small gathering spaces for coworkers to meet, but this one sits next to floor to ceiling windows bringing in the natural sunlight.

The open-floor layout allows employees to collaborate in smaller areas with enough workspace, seating, and outlet access to meet as a group or individually. Along with this type of layout, typically there are more conference rooms, varying in size from small one-on-one meeting spaces to larger groups and even training rooms. This layout creates a healthy working environment allowing employees to work collaboratively or individually where it is most comfortable.

In traditional office design, offices line the perimeter of the building and give all the daylight and views to people in single offices. Eliminating most single offices, opens the space for all occupants to enjoy natural lighting and outdoor views. Exposure to natural light in the workplace correlated with an 84% drop (recent study by Cornell). Access to natural light during the day also leads to improved sleep and mood, further augmenting productivity levels.


One subtle but effective concept at Apex Plaza is the communicating stairs between levels. These staircases are strategically placed near conference rooms and common spaces to encourage people to walk between levels instead of using the elevator. This also allows for a free flow of movement during the work day.

Communicating staircase between levels opening up to working/meeting space at Apex Plaza.

Other options that can be looked at include, installing a green roof, and encouraging a green commute. Apex Plaza has a dedicated bike rack room to hold up to 40 bikes for those who would rather bike to work.


A simple measure to incorporate in existing office spaces is live greenery. A trend on the rise is green walls, which are real gardens and plants that are affixed to an interior wall. Incorporating plants in the corporate setting provides comfort and many health benefits. Depending on the type of greenery chosen, here are some perks of adding plant life to the office: 

Working in a Sustainable Office

Sustainable buildings minimize the negative impact on the environment through energy-saving technology, sustainable materials, recycling, repurposing, and other elements that support long-term ecological balance.

Exposed cross-laminated timber at Apex Plaza.
Solar panels on the roof of Apex Plaza. In total, the building has 875 panels

Apex Plaza was made more sustainable with the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in the parking garage. Additionally, most doors and elevators can be opened with a wave of a hand or scanning a badge. Providing ways to limit surface touching can decrease the number of sick occupants.

Community Focused

Location, location, location. As previously mentioned, some businesses offer more incentives to employees returning to the office for work.  When considering new construction for a corporate office, location is a primary factor in selecting a site, and a big incentive to not only benefit the employees, but to build the company’s relationship within the community.

Apex Plaza is three blocks from the downtown mall where there are over 50 restaurants, 48 places to shop, live music, and even a movie theater, and an amphitheater. With the proximity to so many other businesses and social outlets, it opens the doors for community growth. Having access to great restaurants, activities, and shopping, employees have the luxury of the live, work, and play lifestyle at their fingertips. When exposed to the surrounding community, it is easier to become involved in local board meetings organizations, city events, and volunteer opportunities.

Maintaining a Happy and Healthy Work Environment

One of the most important attributes to occupants in the office space is how sustainable and healthy the work environment is. Whether a client is starting fresh with new construction or starting a renovation it is important to implement ways to benefit those who will occupy the space. From design details such as greenery to a greater focus on sustainability and flexible workspaces, companies are always looking for ways to maintain a healthy and happy working environment while improving productivity.

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