Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus: Sustainably built employee design

Many buildings start with a design concept, then work backwards from there to build a structure. The issue with this is that styles change. With our new Mountain View campus, we embraced the innovative nature of the region and took a different approach to our build process.

Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus looked at our employees first and put their day in the center of everything. Data on productivity, working styles, well-being and much more were all considered to make a space optimized for our workforce.

We leveraged unique aspects of our native California environment to cater to employee needs. Then we looked at what we could do to restore the local habitat integrated in our design, to ensure the campus stands the test of time. Several sustainability categories that our employees will benefit from include:


Known for its sunny weather, in California solar energy is common. We are proud to be integrating photovoltaic roofing panels into our structure to off-set some of our annual energy usage. For what we do use from local utilities, we are guaranteed it is from a renewable, carbon-free source with our participation in the Silicon Valley Clean Energy GreenPrime program. This means our campus will run on clean electricity from both on-site and off-site sources.

A lesser considered aspect to hot weather is that cooling systems are essential to ensuring employee comfort levels in the building. Traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning can use an exorbitant amount of energy. To avoid this typically large daily operational carbon footprint, our new campus will have on-site thermal energy storage.

Thermal energy storage (TES) is a technology that acts like a battery pack for the building’s cooling system. It uses standard equipment to store cooled water in a tank overnight. That water is then pushed into pipes across the building during the day to maintain an optimal work environment temperature. It also enables us to pull energy from the grid only during non-peak times.

Thermal energy storage helps cut down our operational carbon footprint

(Thermal energy storage helps cut down our operational carbon footprint)


We were excited to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) to construct what will be the largest mass wood structure built to date in the U.S. The benefits of this for carbon footprint reduction are significant. Wood is a renewable product and the timber we used was considered deadwood, already diseased or dying from beetles in their natural habitat. In addition to CLT, many other building materials and processes were chosen to ensure our campus contributed to Microsoft’s operational carbon emissions goal.

“While we’ve made progress toward our goal of cutting our operational carbon emissions by 75 percent by 2030, the magnitude and speed of the world’s environmental changes have made it increasingly clear that we must do more. And we are taking new steps to do just that.” – Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer

Our new campus will used cross-laminated timber (CLT) and will be the largest mass wood structure built to date in the U.S. © Celso Rojas, WRNS Studio

(Our new campus will used cross-laminated timber (CLT) and will be the largest mass wood structure built to date in the U.S. © Celso Rojas, WRNS Studio)

The main structure’s living roof, a collection of local plants native to California, will be walkable for all employees to enjoy. Third-party research shows that contact with nature is beneficial to our well-being, and can lead to improvements in mood, cognition, and health. There will also be natural light incorporated into every area of the campus, which will help employees keep their circadian rhythm or natural body clock. In a region where hard work is celebrated, these designs will make keeping the right balance between work and well-being easier.


As a resource, water is among the most valuable in California. That is why at our new campus, one hundred percent of the non‑drinking water will come from rainfall or on-site recycled water. Beyond drinking fountains and sinks, not a drop of water across fifteen acres and 643,000 square feet will come from municipal sources. Find out more about the process of how this is done here.

On-site water treatment and collection means our building would be the first to achieve a net zero non-potable certification known as the Water Petal, given through the Living Building Challenge. The benefit of conserving water goes beyond just our employees. It is for the benefit of everyone.

“We looked to use fundamental elements around the campus to connect with nature and give back to the landscape as well as our employees. We wanted to celebrate California and use new technologies to do that, in a region used to being at the forefront of innovation.” – Katie Ross, Microsoft Senior Sustainability Program Manager

Construction progresses at our Mountain View site © Celso Rojas, WRNS Studio

(Construction progresses at our Mountain View site © Celso Rojas, WRNS Studio)  

Our Silicon Valley campus is scheduled to open in Summer 2020. If you are interested in being among the first to use the space, check out ways of joining here: