In the aftermath of an earthquake, NBBJ helped Boeing transform unused factory space into an opportunity to revolutionize their culture by aligning their people and process around their product.

Boeing, one of the world’s leading aerospace companies with nearly 12,000 commercial jetliners in service worldwide, makes up roughly 75% of the world’s fleet. In 2001, the two disastrous events of the Nisqually earthquake in Seattle and 9/11 became the perfect catalysts for Boeing’s leadership to implement a complete cultural shift in the way they worked. The quake destroyed several of Boeing’s buildings and displaced 1,200 engineers and support staff, while the events of 9/11 brought the airline industry to a halt. In a time when competition with Airbus for market share was fierce, Boeing needed to keep pace with the demand for its 737, the most popular commercial airplane on the market.

Already in the midst of adopting Lean manufacturing principles, Boeing took this moment-in-time opportunity to move its displaced engineers into vacant warehouse space at the 737 plant located on Lake Washington — an initiative called “Move to the Lake.” The plan was to break down the traditional barriers between the people who designed the product and those who built it, by bringing them together under one roof. As Boeing shifted from storing parts to “just-in-time delivery,” large spaces in the three towers that ran along the length of the factory’s assembly floor were freed up. NBBJ used these vacant towers to insert 200,000 square feet of office space in the plant, creating a factory-office hybrid where engineers could work alongside aircraft assemblers.

By co-locating factory and office space, Boeing’s footprint was reduced from 300 acres to 204. Shortly after moving in, employees noted a greater feeling of connectedness with each other and the product, faster problem solving, and a higher sense of satisfaction when airplanes were completed.

“ This isn't just a facilities move. We want to change the way we work, to create a link between builders and designers, and get people to connect in ways that will help us communicate better, operate more efficiently and become even more competitive. ”

Carolyn Corvi Former Vice President, General Manager, Airplane Production


The Factory-Office Hybrid

The ground floor of the building is approximately 2.5 city blocks long and covers a total of 760,000 square feet. Three "office buildings" are run along the outer lengths of the factory and along the middle tower, which also houses an employee service center.

Approximately 1,200 business and engineering employees work in the three-story offices, while at the same time, 900 mechanics are at work on the factory floor.

Following the concept of a moving assembly line, the planes are lined up, five at a time along a 300-foot-wide space, and are assembled as they move along the factory floor at two inches per minute.

Lean Manufacturing: From Parts to Whole
Lean Manufacturing: From Parts to Whole
Lean Manufacturing: From Parts to Whole
Lean Manufacturing: From Parts to Whole
Lean Manufacturing: From Parts to Whole


Awards and Publications


AIA Seattle Chapter, Award of Merit
International Illumination Design Awards, Regional Merit Award
International Interior Design Association, Northern Pacific Chapter, INawards
Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Merit Award, 2005


Change Design, "In Plane View," 2009
Metropolis Magazine, “Boeing’s Building Boom,” July 2005
Puget Sound Business Journal, “Boeing’s Move to the Lake Project,” June 2004
Frontiers, “Shakers & Movers,” June 2004