In the dog-eat-dog world of employee recruitment and retention, government agencies often find themselves in fierce competition with their counterparts in the private sector. So when the U.S. Census Bureau, the keeper of all things statistical, began seeking to consolidate 6,000 employees at the suburban Federal Center in Suitland, Md., bureau managers were eager to create a place that would attract talented staff and keep them in place.
Previously housed in three outdated facilities and an assortment of temporary trailers, the bureau was desperate to shed its reputation for housing employees in substandard buildings—in this case, buildings located in a threatening environment where workers' cars were routinely vandalized. “We were charged with making a building that would reclaim the campus for the community,” says Gary Haney, a design partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York. To address the problem, SOM created a 2.5-million-square-foot headquarters that is handsome, inviting, secure, and packed with on-site amenities—such as a lending library, a credit union, medical offices, and a gymnasium— that simplify everyday life for employees.