How Google combined technology, sustainability and 'googliness'

Angela Ferguson


Google are renowned worldwide for using their physical environment to embody and drive their culture. A search in Google (of course) for the term ‘google workplace’ returns about 63,000,000 results. Yes you read that correctly, sixty three million results.

When Google appointed Futurespace late in 2007 to work with them on their new Australian HQ we were understandably enthusiastic. We’d seen and heard so much about this organisation and their culture and couldn’t wait to be even a small part of their global community. Also, just winning the project brought us a lot of kudos and was great for our reputation in the industry.

What was entirely different about this Google workplace from others around the world though was that the office needed to be both sustainable and googly (and ‘googly’ cannot be defined; if you don’t get it, then you don’t get it). It was one of Google’s first sustainable projects ever, and it was a real challenge to marry a highly technical and scientific business with the principles of having a low impact on the natural environment.

This was an important goal for Google however and one that was addressed across every aspect of the design and build. We worked with the Australian googlers to indoctrinate them into the principles of ‘green’ and to employ these ideas in a specifically Australian way throughout the workplace. Karen Garret of designeco was working with Futurespace then and she was responsible for ensuring we remained committed to the sustainability mission at every stage and every aspect of this project.

One of the key signifiers within the environment that this was a very different Google workplace was seen (and smelt) immediately upon arrival. As Design Director for this project one of the ideas I was most proud of was the “vertical garden” growing over a rusted metal version of the Google logo.

We’d only ever seen the Google logo in blue, red, yellow and green and made of hard plastic or other man made materials. That one idea spoke volumes though, and was the perfect combination of sustainability and technology that heralded the uniqueness, the “Australian-ness” and the googliness of the Google Downunder Headquarters.