An inside look at Zurich North America's 'masterpiece' headquarters

 
 
Updated 9/28/2016 10:38 AM
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  • The new Zurich North America headquarters opens today in Schaumburg.

      The new Zurich North America headquarters opens today in Schaumburg. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A third-floor garden links the east and west bars of the new Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg. The $400 million project officially opens today and will begin welcoming employees in October.

      A third-floor garden links the east and west bars of the new Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg. The $400 million project officially opens today and will begin welcoming employees in October. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A view from the inner courtyard of the new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg. Zurich is moving employees next month from its iconic towers near the Woodfield Mall to its new building on the Motorola Solutions campus.

      A view from the inner courtyard of the new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg. Zurich is moving employees next month from its iconic towers near the Woodfield Mall to its new building on the Motorola Solutions campus. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The main lobby of the new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg. The $400 million project officially opens today and will begin welcoming employees in October.

      The main lobby of the new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg. The $400 million project officially opens today and will begin welcoming employees in October. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Zurich North America's stunning 783,800-square-foot headquarters in Schaumburg opens today, bucking the trend of corporations abandoning suburban campuses for city centers.

The massive glass, steel and wood structure is a throwback to an era when architecture was highly valued as a way for a company to make a statement about itself.

But the ambitious project also testifies to the availability of skilled workers in the greater Chicago area, Zurich North America CEO Mike Foley said.

The company, which annually contributes $1.3 billion and 3,000 jobs to Illinois' economy, is exactly where it wants to be, he said.

"We're looking forward to our next quarter-century," Foley said of the company's 26-year lease on the new building.

Zurich insures 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as many more in construction, agriculture, automobile sales and other industries.

A rooftop garden area is among the many "green" features of the new Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg.
  A rooftop garden area is among the many "green" features of the new Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Its new 11-story building consists of three cantilevered "bars." Both the design of the building and the way it's situated on the site are aimed to optimize the availability of natural light and energy efficiency. The landscaping includes more than 600 trees and 13 acres of natural savanna plantings.

The $400 million project was developed by Clayco and designed by Goettsch Partners; they're both Chicago-based firms. Employee comfort, wellness and interaction, along with environmental sustainability, drove the design of the building, Zurich Business Lead Jennifer Kyung said.

Natural light pours into the building's interior, which features an employee wellness center and better food options in a large cafe. The campus outside includes walking paths for employees.

The new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg offers expansive views of the Northwest suburbs and even the Chicago skyline.
  The new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg offers expansive views of the Northwest suburbs and even the Chicago skyline. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

As well as being visually impressive, the building affords excellent views of everything in the surrounding Schaumburg area all the way to the Chicago skyline.

Kyung said the building is expected to exceed even the high expectations of workers who will begin arriving on the new campus next month.

The building bears the highest rating in the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, certification program, which verifies a building as resource-efficient and environmentally friendly. Its "green" features include a roof of vegetation.

The cafeteria in new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg is one of many areas of the $400 million facility that will be bathed in natural light.
  The cafeteria in new Zurich North America building in Schaumburg is one of many areas of the $400 million facility that will be bathed in natural light. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

A system of automated shades keeps the amount of sunlight in the predominantly glass building regulated throughout the day, while a "water wall" along an outside courtyard provides an attractive visual element while muffling noise from the nearby Jane Addams Tollway.

"It helps the environment, so it's the right thing to do," Kyung said. "And our employees are asking for it. It helps with the recruitment and retention of employees."

Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said Zurich's new headquarters is an advertisement for his village.

"It's another Schaumburg icon," he said, adding that the campus, along with the nearby Sunstar Americas, dispels the notion that corporations are fleeing the suburbs.

"Here's a major commitment to the village of Schaumburg," Larson said. "It's a masterpiece. It will take your breath away."

Another look at the cafeteria.
  Another look at the cafeteria. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

In three phases during October, Zurich will move 3,000 employees from its two 20-story towers built three decades ago near Woodfield Mall to the new building, in a corner of Motorola Solutions' former global headquarters.

Foley said there was never any compelling reason for Zurich to change its ZIP code when seeking a more state-of-the-art headquarters.

He hopes the project will be influential and looks forward to welcoming other new neighbors to the former Motorola campus -- among them the 1,600 Motorola employees remaining on site at a redeveloped engineering facility.

A pond is among the outdoor features at the new, $400 million Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg.
  A pond is among the outdoor features at the new, $400 million Zurich North America headquarters in Schaumburg. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Schaumburg's Economic Development Manager Matt Frank agrees.

"We think there will be others who see that opportunity," he said. "It's a fantastic start to the redevelopment of the Motorola property."

Arlington Heights-based Paylocity will soon move its headquarters to one of the towers Zurich is vacating, leaving about 400,000 square feet to be leased in the other tower, Frank said.

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