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2 Years After Harvey, BP Reopens Flooded Campus With Major Improvements

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With three feet of standing floodwater inundating the entire first floor of BP’s 28-story Westlake office tower after Hurricane Harvey dumped 51 inches of rain on Houston, the energy giant was at a crossroads. Instead of a quick fix, BP took the opportunity to go back to the drawing board, recommitting to the city it has called home for more than 30 years.

BP Westlake 1 First Floor Lobby Renovations
BP Westlake 1 First Floor Lobby Renovations

“Before Harvey, we’d been working on plans for a lobby renovation at Westlake 1,” said Dean Strombom, Gensler principal and energy practice leader.

BP has partnered with Gensler on its office space design since 1984.

“The storm wiped the slate clean, so to speak. They saw this was a new opportunity to do something beyond what they anticipated. They decided they should take a step back and go back to the drawing board.” 

Westlake 1 is the centerpiece of BP’s 64-acre campus in the Energy Corridor on Houston’s west side. The office is the headquarters of BP’s American subsidiary. Other assets on-site, more highly elevated, were undamaged by the storm, but the main office tower wasn’t as lucky, displacing roughly 6,000 employees.

BP saw the storm as an opportunity to reinvent its brand, Strombom told Bisnow. 

“They toured competitors spaces like Exxon’s new campus, Shell’s space and Conoco Phillips. They learned a lot from those newer campuses,” Strombom said. “Then they went to visit tech campuses, visiting Google, Microsoft and Facebook. All energy companies are constantly looking at ways to improve recruiting and retention. It started to evolve into a conversation about what the next generation of employees are looking for in the workplace.”

BP's flooded Westlake Campus
BP's flooded Westlake campus

What Gensler and BP settled on was a total revamp of the common spaces in Westlake 1. The building now has a totally new lobby, a new visitors entrance, a new cafeteria, new conference rooms and two floors of collaborative workspace and informal seating. That is a stark change for workers that have been siloed on their individual floors since the storm. While the bottom floor and nearly every common space were cordoned off, work has continued at Westlake 1 in the undamaged floors above. 

“Our U.S. headquarters is home to our largest concentration of BP employees anywhere in the world,” BP America Chair Susan Dio told the Houston Chronicle. “Getting this right is incredibly important.”

BP Westlake 1 First Floor Dining and Common Area Renovation
BP Westlake 1 First Floor Dining and Common Area Renovation

Changes start at the entrance, which has been moved to a different side of the building. A renovated lobby steers visitors into a common area adjacent to a revamped cafeteria. One of the biggest changes was flipping the cafeteria space, having the dining area up front and the serving area at the back, creating a natural connection with the lobby, turning the dining area into a large meeting space to use throughout the day.

Updated conference rooms with more individual meeting spaces and two floors of collaborative workspaces will help the common areas to be more useful and approachable to the workers on the floors above. 

2 Years After Harvey, BP Reopens Flooded Campus With Major Improvements
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at the reopening of BP's Westlake campus Oct. 31, 2019

Thursday morning’s reopening ceremony marked the end of a two-year process for BP. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner were on hand to mark the occasion, and U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher sent a video message. 

“The re-opening of BP's campus is illustrative of the Houston
community's resilience following Hurricane Harvey, and it is more proof that Texas continues to come back stronger than ever before,” Abbott said at the event. “BP's presence in Houston is vital to this community, and to Texas’ role as the national leader in energy production. I am grateful to BP for their continued investment, and for their work to foster an even stronger partnership with the Lone Star State.”

“It’s exciting when a major corporation in Houston has taken this opportunity to transform their space,” Strombom said. “When a company like BP invests in their own space and infrastructure, that signals to the city and state that they’re going to be here for a long time.”

UPDATE, OCT. 31, 2:19 P.M. CT: The story has been updated with a photo and comments from Gov. Greg Abbott.