National Planning Corporation New Office Renovation
-Photo by Chad Mellon
National Planning Corporation (NPC), an affiliate of Jackson National Life Insurance Company ® (Jackson ®), is one of the fastest-growing broker-dealer firms in the nation. Founded in 1998, NPC empowers more than 1,500 affiliated financial advisors through leading-edge technology and innovative business resources. NPC’s full-service support helps their investment professionals effectively grow their businesses and better serve their clients.
When NPC decided to relocate their headquarters from a costly location in downtown Santa Monica to a nearby corporate campus in the city of El Segundo, they solicited GS&P to design their new 31,000-square-foot home office. Though the new space was more cost-effective, it needed to be enhanced for staff productivity and morale, as well as outfitted for future growth.
“NPC’s old office was in a high-profile building near Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade,” explains Alyson Mandeville, GS&P associate and senior interior designer. “Although the building was in a nice area, the interior hadn’t been renovated in at least 15 years, so it was really dated. The perimeter offices and high panels blocked views and daylight, and there were few amenity spaces.”
With the client’s lease set to expire, GS&P launched an aggressively accelerated schedule to meet the target move-in date. The design team created a flexible and sustainable workplace featuring open workstations, ample meeting and training rooms, lounge areas, coffee bars and cafés. With tones, textures and colors that capture the essence of the California coast, the new NPC space boasts an inspiring, eco-friendly atmosphere.
“We wanted to create a more functional and employee-friendly work environment that could evolve as NPC grows,” says Mandeville. “The end result provided ample, adaptable space for expansion, upgraded audiovisual technology, and a unique character that captures the image of the company.”
With their new office space taking up nearly two floors in the recently updated corporate campus, NPC’s tenancy will help revitalize El Segundo’s business district, drawing more professionals to the area as well as the complementary businesses that serve them. GS&P’s vibrant and modern design will play an important role in attracting and retaining talent from across the area.
A Renovated Perspective
One of the first challenges GS&P faced was designing a workplace that adhered to Jackson’s companywide standards for office sizing, while helping NPC executives adapt to the significant changes to office space.
“The new floor plan has smaller private offices and a larger area of open workstations, and we faced some initial resistance to downsizing the private offices,” notes Mandeville. “But the client wanted directors and managers working side by side so that organizational changes wouldn’t constantly involve moving people around. Standardized private office sizes for senior vice presidents also meant more flexibility overall.”
With a more balanced approach to office and workstation space, the NPC staff and managers realized they could expand shared spaces for meetings, training and amenities, and increase interaction for a more effective working environment. Workstations were outfitted with upgraded tools, including dual monitor arms, ergonomic chairs and proper task lighting. High panels were removed, and most private offices were pulled inward away from the windows so that the sight lines were open to all staff. The result was more natural daylight and exceptional, unhindered views.
“Associates can see one another more readily and converse more easily, all of which makes for a more collaborative environment,” says Mandeville.
GS&P’s design encouraged further social interaction through enhanced amenity spaces on both floors, including cafés, lounge areas and other gathering spaces where associates can escape work for a moment of downtime. The café spaces also provide informal meeting areas for larger gatherings or functions. The design team intentionally infused these areas with a lively, fun and youthful atmosphere, and plenty of natural light.
“Rather than having to leave for lunch every day, the staff now has plenty of café and break space inside the office,” says Mandeville. “In the old location, associates preferred going outside rather than staying in the breakroom. These café spaces have great access to views and different types of seating. Employees can also bring their laptops to work from the breakrooms for a change of pace.”
West Coast Inspiration
While GS&P’s design increased the office’s functionality, the aesthetics of the design aimed to reflect the distinct beauty of the West Coast.
“The client communicated that they wanted the headquarters to have that quintessential California feel,” says Mandeville. “Our design features recycled materials, beach tones and textures, and live greenery throughout the space. We also put the local culture on display through original paintings and photography from area artists.”
The lobby and reception area provide visitors and clients with the first impression of NPC’s vibrant and energetic atmosphere. Inspired by the California coast, the external environment is reflected on the inside through charcoal wood tones and driftwood textures paired with the company brand’s classic shade of blue.
“We used high-contrast colors of grays and whites with doses of blue inspired by the sea,” explains Mandeville.
Situated off the main lobby is a pre-function space that leads into a boardroom. The boardroom includes a back entry that offers convenience to staff and improves office circulation. Horizontal patterns on the flooring, carpet and wood-paneled ceiling direct the eye toward the views of the Pacific Ocean and mountains on the horizon, increasing the connection to nature.
“Another common space included in GS&P’s design is the dedicated training center, where NPC can host continuing education programs and train new and existing associates,” says Mandeville. “Advanced audiovisual technology, including high-quality panel displays in both the boardroom and training center, allows conferencing with remote staff.”
An Eco-Friendly Workplace
Perhaps nothing is more quintessentially Californian than environmental sustainability. GS&P has long prided itself on good environmental stewardship through sustainability best practices. As part of the overall interior, eco-friendly features include efficient plumbing and water submetering, on-site recycling, an air filtration system, and pollutant control to prevent any off-gassing from furniture or carpet fabrics.
“California is highly regulated with stringent green building codes and seismic zoning,” explains Mandeville. “The California Green Building Standards Code is a lot like LEED certification, only it’s a rule, not a guideline. There were atypical details and requirements we had to navigate that we don’t encounter anywhere else. We had to include a lot of documentation in our drawings and take in certain considerations during the buildout to ensure an earthquake-resistant structure.”
Since California is known to have frequent power outages for extended periods, GS&P also designed secure and robust technology infrastructures, and installed a dedicated, uninterrupted power supply for workstations and offices to minimize disruptions and lost work.
Smart sustainability practices are just one way in which GS&P’s design contributed to NPC’s general business efficiencies and economic returns.
“At their new location, NPC is saving $1 million a year on their rent,” says Mandeville. “We further increased operational efficiencies with a better HVAC system and updated, energy-efficient office equipment. Rather than have individual printers at every desk, we installed centralized printing, which helps reduce ink and paper usage. We also used economical carpet and decorative finishes to keep the budget intact.”
Delivered on time and within budget, GS&P’s distinctive “Californian” design effectively accommodates the needs of NPC’s growing staff while providing a functional, sustainable, modern and employee-centered workplace that can easily adapt to the organization’s varied work strategies and organizational changes. Mandeville notes that the client has been very happy with the results:
"Their president and CEO, John Johnson, personally thanked me for embracing their desire for a contemporary California workplace. I'm proud of how we translated their vision into a space that truly reflects who they are."
“We are very pleased with NPC’s youthful, vibrant workplace,” concurs Greg Farhat, director of workplace strategies and delivery at Jackson. “We plan to use it as a prototype for office space in the future. The project adheres to California’s Green Code related to energy, materials and sources, and goes several steps further with other sustainable design elements. We’re confident the thoughtful design creates a comfortable environment for our associates to enhance their productivity.”