As the sliding panels opened in the bubblelike hemisphere atop the administration building of Dusan Construction, denizens were startled to see a military helicopter hovering overhead. "The pilot probably suspected there was an ICBM inside that we were about to launch," speculates Dusan Slepcevic, founder, CEO, and advocate of the truly open office.

In 1986 Slepcevic moved his California company, a 180-employee high-tech manufacturer, from the macadam of Silicon Valley to a new building in the garlic fields of Gilroy. The plastic rolling dome, with its motorized, 180-degree aperture, cost about $130,000 to construct -- a bit more than a traditional roof. But it's made up the difference. Briefly cracking it open lets out trapped hot air, helping to reduce air-conditioning costs by some 20%.

Having something to gaze at in the distance has relieved the eye fatigue of VDT users. And productivity is up. In the round, 20,000-square-foot, black-glass-walled building, each office looks onto a two-story atrium directly below the dome. "You get more out of employees if they have a feeling they're outside," Slepcevic observes. "When the dome is opened in good weather, everyone keeps his office door open to breathe the fresh air. They hear the birds up above. It's very peaceful." And when garlic is being crushed nearby, "it smells nice, too."

-- Robert A. Mamis

For geothermal-engineering information, call National Appropriate Technology Assistance Service, ~800-428-2525; California Division of Oil & Gas, 916-323-1788; Electric Power Research Institute, 510-934-4212; Geo Heat Center, 503-885-1750; and Geothermal Resources Council, 916-758-2360.

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