You know the story of the plumber who never gets around to fixing his own leaky taps, or the web designer whose website has a holding page “website coming soon.”
AWW was similarly afflicted, though our three offices are all in fantastic locations. Our rebrand in 2013 gave us the impetus needed to create an inspired environment for our own staff and in August 2014, the roll out of our refurbishment across all three of our offices was completed. As part of the expanding creative industry sector, with growth of 10% in 2014 outperforming all other UK sectors of industry, brand and identity are key to our ongoing success and growth, and it was important that our newly refurbished space reflected our core values and identity. AWW’s interior design team looked at how we could infuse the brand into the space around us, and how the space could speak to the employees and clients about us as designers. By injecting our practice’s slogans, logos and philosophy into the physical appearance of the office, we have created a more personal space that reinforces AWW’s identity as exceptional designers, technically competent in all aspects of construction.
A considered office design will help enhance your appeal as an employer and support a change in culture, significantly increasing productivity and encouraging collaboration. A refurbishment is not just an opportunity to refresh your office design, it can help you interrogate how you work: desk sharing, meeting room and collaborative work spaces, technology and equipment usage, storage needs, and your waste and energy consumption. Great office design can invigorate a workforce, making them excited about being in the office, even offer staff different environments for different work tasks. The office desk is no longer the central hub of productivity. Breakout spaces provide a crucial place away from the desk which can aid creativity and inspire ideas. Office layouts can have a huge impact on the way staff work. Since moving to a greater open plan environment, barriers of status have been removed and greater interactions between staff has been encouraged. The new layout encourages openness and importantly for us, creative and collaborative thinking.
We have been creating exciting office spaces that engender collaborative practice for a number of years. In 2010 we created the first Activity Based Working (ABW) offices in the UK for a financial institution. A collection of different workspace environments mixed collaborative and individual working spaces across an open plan floor.
When we started working on the refurbishment of BBC Plymouth, through a series of client user workshops, we explored the use of ‘The Hub’, a relatively small but hugely significant group of desks where all recorded information from the news journalists is fed on to the servers so it can be accessed for editing and eventually broadcasting. Having established the essential, task driven desk arrangement, we integrated ‘creative’ spaces around this facility. Cafés and restaurant areas are used to provide informal meeting areas and, when located correctly, can in effect bring people together and enhance meetings more informally but often more creatively. The spaces become the social heart of any organisation. This combined with efficient layouts and an appropriate level of informal spaces all contribute to a healthy workplace environment and more importantly for some employers, a more productive workforce.
While an office refurbishment can be more cost-effective and give you the benefits of a new office without the upheaval of office relocation, one of the factors that deter businesses from refurbishment is the disruption it can cause.
Computershare occupies a landmark and award winning building designed by Arup Associates in the 1970s and was listed as just one of 14 around the country to be listed by English Heritage in January 2015 as fine examples of post-war architecture.
The building’s poor internal arrangement and inefficient floorplate discouraged opportunities to sublet, resulting in the underutilisation of space and a fragmented occupation by Computershare. When Computershare abandoned their original decision to relocate, they appointed AWW to help them create a modern contemporary working environment.
A key challenge that determined the whole strategy for Computershare in Bristol was the need to keep Computershare as a business fully operational during the refurbishment. The design solution had to adopt a phased strategy to ensure that this major refurbishment ensured business continuity. The project was executed over three phases and in excess of 1,200 people were moved during the construction period. The phasing strategy over a 14 month period enabled Computershare to realise their aspiration for great space while being able to maintain business as usual. This demonstrates that with careful planning, a large business can maintain full operation throughout a very disruptive refurbishment.
“It’s nice to see it get such an amazing facelift now, I really appreciate the new fixtures and furnishings with the contemporary lighting and modern feel to an iconic building,”
George Czekalski, Computershare relationship manager who has worked at The Pavilions since 1999.
What sets this refurbishment apart is the respect for and successful update of the original architecture. Architecturally the light touch is reflected in the overall design approach and what is a major refurbishment project has uncompromisingly achieved an exemplar working environment that fully respects and enhances the character and quality of the original building and its office spaces.
The office space is exposed on entry but still retains the vision that the building and its landscape are connected. The use of colour and natural finishes bring a contemporary feel and freshness that complements the strong architectural character of the building. The pavilion style offers a campus feel, enhanced by the ability to coexist with other occupiers whilst maintaining the strength of the individual organisations brand and identity.
“I love this building. It’s eccentric yet completely functional. You can work here for years and keep finding something new. The difference between now and October 2011 is just huge. We wanted to make sure that the building catered for modern day working, and our clients and colleagues are extremely positive about the changes,” Naz Sarkar, Computershare’s UK Chief Executive
The end result responded to the building’s strong architectural character and now embraces a more diverse mix of occupiers within a modern working environment, a truly multi-tenanted building.
Practical completion was achieved on 25th July on Phase II of the new Imperial Tobacco Building. The refurbished building provides additional office space to complement Imperial Tobacco’s award winning headquarters building on the adjacent site. In addition to the new office space, the building also accommodates a commercial nursery for staff and use within the community and boasts a new all-weather sports pitch for staff. It was considered appropriate that the refurbished building fitted in with the style and quality of the new headquarters building whilst retaining as much of the existing building fabric as possible. The internal spaces have been reconfigured to promote collaboration and to provide staff with different opportunities to meet, work and play.
“Thanks to AWW’s collaborative approach, we felt like we had a valuable partner delivering our new international headquarters. One of Imperial’s values is ‘we enjoy, thrive on challenge and make it fun’ and AWW has captured this essence as well as celebrating our broad geographic footprint in their interior design,” Ken Hill, Imperial Tobacco.
A BCO report ‘What Workers Want’ which was co-produced with Savills surveyed 1,168 office workers to try and define the most important factors about where they would ideally like to work. Younger workers are more interested in their surroundings according to the report with just under a half (43 percent) of 18-24 year olds preferring a ‘non-traditional’ office fit-out. Respondents also believe that a bespoke, ‘funky’ fit-out could offer the greatest productivity gains with 60 percent of those working in a non-traditional fit-out saying that it improved their productivity.
The workplace of the future is still the office, a central hub which remains key as a social environment in which employees interact and work together and as it becomes clear to employers that high-quality workplaces contribute to the recruitment and retention of staff, more workplaces will consult their staff on their workplace design.
Office refurbishments provide opportunities for architects to collaborate with their clients and to encourage engagement with a wider audience, including the staff who will use the space.