Maximizing Potential on the Corporate Campus

Waters Corporation Headquarters
Milford, MA

Waters Corporation is the world’s leading manufacturer of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry systems, supplies, and laboratory informatics software. In 2011, the company found itself facing an acute space shortage at its Milford headquarters due to its robust growth.

Since 2000, staff headcount had jumped 49%, from 977 to 1,456, with an additional 63% increase, to 2,373 employees, projected by 2020.

Further, Waters was in the midst of an epic demographic shift: Its baby-boomer researchers and scientists were edging closer to retirement, and the company was eager to explore means of attracting new, younger talent to join its ranks.

Waters engaged SMMA to plan a campus strategy that would accommodate the company’s continued expansion. The question, from the outset, was simple: Could the decades-old existing space be effectively updated to allow Waters to realize its aspirations, or would the results the company sought only be achievable via new construction? Based on past square-foot-per-person programming assumptions, the latter option—which Waters leaned toward, initially—would involve building a new 146,000-square-foot building at a cost of approximately $50 million, then constructing a second facility by 2021 for an additional $61 million.

Waters 2.0

After analyzing existing conditions, SMMA advised Waters to rethink the “new building” approach, and look more closely at what they already had: a diverse mix of office, R&D, laboratory and cleanroom, and manufacturing space.

To meet the client’s 21st century needs, the SMMA design team conducted visioning sessions, looking at research and trends in workplace design and planning with evidence drawn for benchmarking studies and other references.

From these sessions, the team developed what came to be known as the “Waters 2.0” program: A complete overhaul of 750,000 square feet of existing space and the introduction of an entirely new workplace culture. 

New Workplace Features

  • Smaller, more open offices, and a companywide reduction of private offices
  • Improved functionality and ergonomics
  • More shared space
  • Improved visibility, accessibility, and daylight
  • Informal “huddle space,” to support team collaboration
  • Networked technology, allowing communication to take place in a variety of spaces

The SMMA design team, working closely with key Waters stakeholders, analyzed the existing space and developed new models designed to foster collaboration, attract talent, and most efficiently utilize the client’s current real estate.

Developing Solutions

To accommodate all of the logistical challenges inherent to shuffling employees and rebuilding interior spaces, SMMA established a phased design and construction program.

The design team also constructed a 10,000-square-foot open office area—complete with café, meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces—to test ideas and gauge staff acceptance. This ultimately resulted in the development of more efficient office layouts, furniture, meeting spaces, and flexible work areas, designed to match the need for collaboration among scientists, programmers, researchers, and administrative staff. 

Sustainable, Responsible

Sustainability lessons included efficient and low-cost recycling, resale, and donation programs for what were literally tons of furniture, carpet, ceiling tiles, and office equipment. An open-book agreement with Waters’ moving company tracked the disposition or resale of every furniture item removed, splitting the proceeds between the two parties. New windows, energy-efficient lighting, and companywide waste recycling are integral to the Waters 2.0 transformation. Individual printers were eliminated in favor of shared print rooms and scanning and electronic filing replaced paper files. 

All conference rooms have networked computers able to launch a video meeting with any Waters group in other locations. Software code writers in Milford collaborate with programmers in Romania and Ireland.

Facilitating Communication

Social media tools allow for the in-house sharing of information and curation of knowledge, while IBM connection platforms facilitate desk-to-desk video conferencing. Webcasts and presentations are broadcast and shared around the world in real time and on demand. This unified communication is one of the most significant benefits of the new space, appealing equally to employees of all generations and assisting in the company’s recruitment goals. 

Quantifiable Value

  • Bottom-line savings from implementing the Waters 2.0 workplace initiative will total more than $100 million over the next 10 years. Investing in the renovation and reconfiguration of the entire 750,000-square-foot campus was a significantly less-costly option than building two new buildings, as originally planned.
  • Existing campus land in Milford will accommodate another 40+ years at Waters’ historical growth rate.
  • Productivity gains are apparent throughout the workplace, as employees integrate new technology and take advantage of more efficiently programmed work areas. To date, 250 people have moved into new spaces, and phased move-ins of 170 employees at a time are continuing.

Moving Away from the Silo

The Waters 2.0 initiative provides a detailed blueprint for other global science and engineering companies with traditional office environments and silo-influenced workspaces. Many such companies prize individual privacy and isolation over collaboration and team problem-solving. The Waters program offers evidence of a healthier, more productive approach.