Goodbye Private Offices, EY Redesign in Downtown Detroit Maximizes Efficiency and Taps Local Artists


The age of new office design comes with a caveat: No one actually has a permanent workspace. At least not at Ernst & Young (EY), a multinational professional services firm that operates a large practice at One Kennedy Square in downtown Detroit.

Ten years ago, when EY moved into the white-and-green office tower that overlooks Campus Martius Park, it occupied two entire floors that were outfitted with mostly private offices set along floor-to-ceiling glass exterior windows. Workstations and common areas occupied the interior spaces.

After recently renewing its lease for another 10 years, EY reduced the size of its practice to a floor and a half, a drop in space of 25 percent. At the same time, the practice saw its workforce increase 20 percent to 600 employees. To accommodate the added workers while reducing its footprint, the company undertook a complete redesign of its space. The renovation included removing all of the private offices and replacing them with interior offices that are available on a first-come basis, along with conference rooms, training spaces, and multi-use areas.

“The new office design is 100 percent hoteling, meaning everyone who comes into the office on a particular day utilizes state-of-the-art technology to reserve what they need whether it’s an office, a conference room, a work station, or a team (co-working) room,” says George N. Lenyo, EY’s office managing partner in Detroit. “We have a clean desk policy, so that we can have a new start each day.”

With a good percentage of its workforce at client locations at any given time, Lenyo says the office space is now a “democratic environment based on need, not a person’s title.” In other words, employees literally bring their work home each evening. Using a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop computer, workers check in and make a reservation for the space they need each day.

“Our goal with the new design was to better enable collaboration at the office and make it flexible so that we can have internal teams working on a project, or invite a client in to best maximize the work that they need,” Lenyo says.

Working with a range of clients in automotive, health care, banking, and other business sectors, Lenyo says the open office layout helps draw a younger workforce who largely favor working in a team environment rather than a regimented space doled out based on seniority or a person’s title.In addition to offering tax, audit, and consulting services, EY has opened its space to the community for nonprofit board meetings or civic planning sessions.

Led by EY’s interior design team, the redevelopment came about by working with Redico in Southfield (building owner), Gensler in Detroit (architect), and Oliver Hatcher Construction in Novi. Some of the interior design elements include open ceilings, a large work area with a roll up garage door, the use of reclaimed wood, polished concrete floors, a drop-down panel above a counter so that food preparation for a say a working lunch doesn’t distract from the meeting, and artwork from the local community.

One of the artists who worked on the project was Freddy “SW Freddy” Diaz from southwest Detroit. He created a large mural over the course of five days that represents different images of Detroit, including two boys playing basketball, a graffiti artist from the 1970s, the QLine, the People Mover, the Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain, and General Motor Co.’s headquarters at the Renaissance Center.

“EY is a large company that has offices all over the world, but they wanted something local for the mural that represented the cool things about Detroit, but they didn’t want the imagery to be work-related,” says Diaz, 24. “I had created a mural at the Lear Innovation Center (in downtown Detroit) for Lear Corp., so this was my next project.

“I met George through a friend whose mother-in-law worked at EY, and she was looking for a local artist. And then I found out George and Matt (Simoncini, CEO of Lear Corp.) were good friends, so that was another great connection. At the end of the mural project for EY, George gave me a GoPro camera with a stand and a memory card so I could record all my work. That was amazing, and I had a blast.”