Beyond These Walls™

What inspires innovative and collaborative thinking in a workforce? For cutting-edge Clayco, it should be the very space you’re working in.

The research scientist doesn’t have to think about why her lab was situated on the north side of the building, away from the glare of the sun—only that the airy windowed lab maintains a precise climate without making her feel shut off. A lawyer need not understand glass-curtain wall construction, only that the floor-to-ceiling views spur his best thinking.

Such effortless grace and utility result from intensive planning, coordination, and a sense of shared mission. Chicago-based Clayco, a real estate, architecture, engineering, and construction firm, has created hundreds of signature buildings for prominent companies—Amazon, Centene, and Caterpillar, to name a few—since 1984 by emphasizing collaboration and transparency. “We’ve worked to align all of the enterprise interests with the clients’ goals,” says Bob Clark, Clayco’s Chairman and Founder. As the company’s mantra, “beyond these walls,” makes clear, the primary consideration is more than a physical structure.

Innovations to Spur Innovation

Pfizer’s planned 295,000-square-foot R&D laboratory in Chesterfield, Missouri, under construction and set to open in mid-2019, is a prime example of how a client’s desire to improve its workflow can inspire Clayco’s design. Beyond consolidating several existing laboratories into a single space, Pfizer wanted a physical structure that would help its scientists and administrative staff think and work differently.

Researchers traditionally complete project segments before handing them off to the next group. “We’re trying to blur those lines,” says Kendall Kessler, Pfizer’s director of business strategy and operations. “The hope has been to spark more innovation and new approaches to scientific challenges.” Clayco envisions a “continuous laboratory” with fewer walls between scientific functions and plenty of team rooms, equipped with whiteboards, flat screens, and interior windows to welcome coworkers passing by.

As construction proceeds, drones and workers equipped with HoloLens goggles peer through walls and tiles, sending detailed information to a command center miles away, helping to maintain quality and contain costs.

Pfizer R&D Facility

Technology that makes construction better and more efficient

Offsite prefabrication of 40-foot laboratory wall sections ensures high quality and cost efficiency. Completed walls are shipped to the site, cutting months from the schedule.
Drones, along with on-site workers equipped with HoloLens goggles, can peer through walls and tiles and send data readings back to workers stationed at a virtual command center miles away.
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Staying Home

With the lease on its longtime headquarters expiring, venerable Richmond law firm McGuireWoods needed a new home. While spacious new digs beckoned in the suburbs, Richard Cullen, a partner in the firm and its chairman from 2006-2017, didn’t want to abandon the city. The building required beauty and functionality befitting a now-global firm with 1,100 lawyers in offices from the U.K. to China. The catch? The clock was ticking. By the time McGuireWoods selected Clayco, the project teams had less than three years to find a suitable downtown lot, come up with an approved design, and construct the building.

Clayco identified an odd-shaped plot across from the firm’s old building with commanding views of the downtown skyline, historic neighborhoods, and the James River. To make the lot practical, Clayco worked with city officials to close off a little-used section of the road. Efficient planning helped McGuireWoods get more use from fewer square feet, thus keeping costs about on par with the old building. Reflecting the firm’s emphasis on teamwork to better serve its clients, the design called for incrementally smaller offices, leaving room for expansive shared spaces and light-filled conference rooms.

Despite the tight timeframe, the project never felt rushed, he says. Couture recalls spending an entire day roaming New York’s skyscrapers with Clayco’s Clark, in search of the perfect windows. The shimmering, $120 million Gateway Plaza on East Canel Street was finished in time for McGuireWoods to occupy as the primary tenant in 2015.

Gateway Plaza

On a tight deadline, helping a Richmond firm maintain its city presence

Clayco helped McGuireWoods select a plot downtown, and then worked with city officials to permanently reroute a little-used section of roadway. Reflecting the firm’s emphasis on teamwork and client service, the design called for smaller offices, leaving room for expansive shared spaces and conference rooms. Efficient planning helped McGuireWoods get more use from fewer square feet, keeping costs on par with what the firm paid for its former headquarters.

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Sustainable Solutions

When insurance giant Zurich North America looked to replace its Chicago-area headquarters, some key priorities emerged, starting with a physical space that would promote creativity and collaboration among 3,000 office workers previously stacked in a pair of 20-story towers. Clayco’s solution was a dramatic new building that features three horizontal bars that bathe interior spaces with natural light. Fewer, wider floors mean more employees work side-by-side. Light-filled atriums and wide staircases encourage spontaneous interactions.

Another priority—as with most Clayco clients—was environmental sustainability. That started with a construction process in which 99% of waste materials were recycled rather than sent to landfill, which continues today. An on-site co-generation plant using waste heat cuts energy costs by 62%, while efficient plumbing fixtures have chopped water use by nearly 40%. And nearly 50,000 square feet of green roofs are reducing heat and storm-water runoff. The combined efforts have earned the building LEED Platinum status—the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Zurich North America

Collaboration that helps sustain the environment

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“We are a single-source solution that provides real estate, design and technology, architecture, and construction at a very high level”

– Bob Clark


In an industry often fraught with adversarial relationships among the client, architect and builder, Clayco emphasizes close collaboration and seamless sharing of information from first conception through design and construction and beyond. That includes not only the client and the builder, but also electrical engineers, plumbers, and everyone else integral to a project’s success.


Innovative design starts with a client who is open-minded, willing to challenge traditional methods of doing business, and passionate about what a great building can do to inspire its workers to achieve their best. That’s when some of the world’s best designers get to work, creating something that is more than a building–it’s a physical expression of a company’s highest values.


Collaborative design flows seamlessly into construction, where Clayco has set new standards for quality, craftsmanship, and innovation. From prefabrication of select building components to the use of digitized databases that offer every worker key data as the work proceeds, use of advanced technology helps ensure that projects proceed on time, with high quality and contained costs.