Expensify Headquarters, Oregon

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services, as well as architectural lighting design services for the software company, Expensify, at this landmark downtown Portland building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.


  • Size: 25,000 square feet
  • Construction Cost: $1.2 million
  • Client/Owner: Expensify
  • Architect: ZGF
  • Contractor: Swinerton
  • Completion Date: 2017

The HVAC system designed by Tetra Tech is almost completely hidden, with air flow acoustically isolated to create a distraction-free environment. The century-old heating system was replaced with modern heating and cooling, increasing the total energy savings by 33 percent. As part of the design, the original decorative steel radiator covers were retained to maintain the building’s unique and historical character.

Working with Expensify, an open office concept was developed that incorporated unassigned seating and the absence of private offices. Instead, a variety of flexible workspaces were created throughout the building, allowing employees to work and collaborate in the ways that best suit them. The grand staircase is flanked by two glass-enclosed floating workspaces, which have additional crow’s nest workspaces perched atop them.

Tetra Tech’s Lighting Studio (part of Glumac, a Tetra Tech company) worked closely with the interiors team to illuminate and highlight the spaces in a comfortable and inviting way. Using non-traditional decorative fixtures typically used in hospitality spaces, the lighting played a big role in creating the appropriate ambience, versatility, and flexibility associated with each of the various themed spaces. A coffee shop/bar area, an expansive kitchen, living rooms with communal tables, a dramatic dungeon-like conference room, a lofty boardroom, and a hidden speakeasy have all been incorporated into the interior space.

The lighting was placed with intention, focusing on brass and wood fixtures to complement and highlight the historical features of the building. The lighting design highlighted distinctive attributes and shed light on work areas to create the desired mood. The Lighting Studio used discreet black recessed fixtures inside the high-tech dungeon-like conference room to provide task illumination in keeping with the dramatic and dark feel of the room, ultimately resulting in a vibrant and uniquely creative office space.

Images courtesy of Garrett Rowland