National Futures Association (NFA) Offices – Chicago

NELSON Worldwide redesigned NFA’s post-pandemic office in Chicago, focusing on a people-first, innovative design strategy with a customizable layout, strategic pods, and dynamic team rooms for optimal functionality and collaboration.

National Futures Association’s (NFA) planned Chicago office relocation required a major pivot when the world shut down during the pandemic, prompting NELSON Worldwide to anticipate the future of the workplace and adapt its design to follow suit. In conjunction with CBRE’s workplace strategy team, the NELSON team addressed a number of challenges including a significant reduction in square footage and a hybrid work schedule. NELSON used meticulous planning and data collection to optimize NFA’s new office space.

NFA looked at several spaces throughout the pandemic and used NELSON’s space planning expertise to guide its selection process. The organization wanted an office convenient to public transportation with versatile amenities and strong technology infrastructure. Ultimately, NFA’s goal was to cost-effectively create a people-first environment that employees would look forward to collaborating in every day. NFA landed on a vibrant new building in Chicago, 320 South Canal, and NELSON stepped in to infuse the organization’s mission, culture and forty-year-long history into the space.

The building’s exterior – defined by sharp, geometric shapes and vertical lines drawing the eye upward – inspired NELSON’s design concept, “The Fold.” Borrowing from origami’s philosophy of endless possibilities, “The Fold” emphasizes the potential for a fresh perspective to transform any space into something entirely new. Playing with the angles of walls, ceiling and flooring elements allowed the NELSON team to create a space that guides guests and employees toward strategic intersection points designed for interaction. Glass fronts, natural light and city views dominate the space.

NFA’s new office provides an extensive variety of workspaces to accommodate a wide range of workflow needs. From home-away-from-home experiences like living room lounge areas and kitchen islands to private offices and flex spaces, the layout is divided by strategic pods of architecture, ensuring that employees always have easy access to huddle, phone and conference rooms regardless of their location within the office.

To encourage foot traffic, NFA’s large training room and café are intentionally placed in one area of the floor. This not only ensures that all employees have access to the office’s best views but also creates opportunity for serendipitous encounters. The café also acts as a catalyst for engaged human interaction and collaboration. NELSON worked closely with Four Four Design to incorporate environmental graphic design elements into the space. A visual timeline wall conveys NFA’s history by showcasing key milestones over the last forty years. A dedicated employee photo wall gives the new space personality and reminds staff of what makes the organization special: the people.

As the industry-wide self-regulatory organization for the U.S. derivatives industry, NFA employs many Compliance Examiners who conduct both individual work and teamwork throughout the day. To accommodate this workstyle variation, NELSON designed a custom solution for NFA: team rooms.

NELSON’s innovative team room concept efficiently marries both workstyles in twelve mid-sized conference room spaces. Each room is equipped with six to eight mobile tables that can either be assembled together to create one large conference table, pushed against walls to transform into individual workstations, or reorganized for video conferencing. Offering boundless flexibility, the custom concept aids with training and development and efficiently leverages the space for the organization’s unique needs.

A design-driven nexus of innovation, efficiency and human connection, NFA’s new office space is a creative reflection of the organization’s mission to safeguard the integrity of the derivatives markets, protect investors and ensure Members meet their regulatory responsibilities. Despite the unforeseen obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFA’s new workspace is set to emerge this summer as a standout example of creative, budget-conscious design that effectively supports the regulatory body’s staff as they carry out their important role.

Design: NELSON Worldwide
Photography: courtesy of NELSON Worldwide