FIT-OUT OF WORKPLACE

 

National Winner/Winner South of England Region - Sponsored by IBEX Interiors Ltd
BT City Place, Gatwick

Client

BT Wholesale Markets

Architect (Fit-out)

Aukett Ltd

Base Building Architect

Bennetts Associates

Services Engineer

Capita

Project Manager, Quantity Surveyor

Currie & Brown

Main Contractor

Mansell


There can be few organisations that have gone through so wholesale a reorganisation of their office premises as BT, and City Place represents one of the latest generation of their Workstyle programme. It follows the policy of moving premises out of central London to the M25 periphery, but it also accommodates a single business that has opted to relocate lock, stock and barrel to this new office location.

Starting with a base building that is well suited to BT's working style, the fit-out produces the sense of being a real engine for business. With the exception of executive offices, the space is open plan, with the use of the same furniture system throughout, and with the spaciousness of open plan preserved by the use of low screens between workstations. Using an element of hot-desking, the building has an allocated population of 1200 housed in 800 workstations, and utilisation rates are extremely high. This has, however, been achieved without any sense of oppression, partly through the quality of the base building, but also through the provision of a wide and imaginative selection of support spaces - including, as well as the usual restaurant and gym, a less usual "fine dining"room, shop, hairdresser and (possibly uniquely) a music room - where staff can practise percussive therapy.

The basics have been got right too, with a good, even level of both natural and artificial light, good air quality (in a building with an "Excellent BREEAM rating), and good acoustics.

Perhaps the fit-out does not have the glamour and fizz of the Diageo building, but it does not have the same brief either, nor the branding opportunities, and it is the fitness for intensity of use that just earns BT City Place the national Award in this category.

Although not strictly a criterion for the Awards, the judges were also impressed that, in this extremely busy building, they were expected when they arrived, were issued with passes that had already been prepared, and were shown quickly to a meeting room - a reminder that buildings alone do not create customer-friendly behaviour, but that businesses that get both building and behaviour right are well on the way towards success.


Winner London Region - major projects - Sponsored by IBEX Interiors Ltd
Diageo GB Headquarters, Park Royal, London NW10

Client and end user

Diageo GB

Base Building Developer

London & Regional Properties

Project Manager, Quantity Surveyor

Gardiner & Theobald Management Services

Architect (interior design), Structural and Services Engineer, Planning Supervisor

Aukett

Architect (base building)

RHWL

Main Contractor (fit-out)

Interior plc


Working with their chosen development partner, London & Regional Properties, Diageo have been transforming an area of Park Royal previously dedicated principally to production to the environment of a landscaped business park - and the gateway building is their own office. It is a good building too, with each floor served by glass lifts rising through a dramatic atrium that, to the north, acts as a window to the new Wembley Stadium.

The opportunity to design a fit-out for such a building might, alone, be the stuff of which interior designers' dreams are made, but to this is added the gift of being invited to work with the Diageo brands in theming many of the spaces.

The end result is not, however, the outcome of corporate introspection alone. Before embarking on the exercise, Diageo looked at a number of exemplar office schemes, and the fit-out displays a number of aspects of contemporary thinking about what represents best practice in office design. This includes open plan offices, for everyone up to and including the Chief Executive; low screens between workstations to encourage a sense of community; on-floor support centres that combine office services and light refreshment; and a high level of support facilities - a restaurant located in the atrium base, again strengthening the sense of community, a health and fitness suite, a staff bar and club, and (unusually but understandably) an off licence for the sale of Diageo's products to the staff - giving a new and literal meaning to the BCO Awards criteria re "lifting the spirits".


Winner Scotland Region - major projects - Sponsored by IBEX Interiors Ltd
NHS 24, Clyde Bank, Glasgow

Client

NHS 24

Employer's Agent, Quantity Surveyor, Planning Supervisor

Currie & Brown Cost Management

Architect and Construction Manager

interdec working spaces

Services Engineer

Wallace Whittle


This fit-out is another reminder of the variety of enterprises that occupy workspace, and the wide range of their differing needs. Although a lot of attention is paid to the needs of "business" in judging these Awards, this is to reinforce the fact that offices are more than a passive work setting - but not every organisation that occupies office premises would think of itself first and foremost as a business, and there are many whose primary purpose is not the generation of profit.

NHS 24 is, as the name suggests, a 24-hour call centre functioning as an integral part of NHS Scotland, providing medical advice and information to callers and referring them for further assistance or treatment as appropriate. The centre is manned predominantly by nurses, and this in itself creates a difference from a more typical corporate office. In addition, given the nature of calls they might receive, those nurses live routinely with stress levels which are out of all proportion with those more typical in business.

The fit-out is therefore designed primarily around the principle of sustaining and supporting the front line staff who provide this service. This extends from the arrangement of the workstations, which allows communication between advisers whilst respecting patient privacy; to the quality and nature of breakout areas, which need to strike another balance - offering both light relief from the workstation and calm when that is required; and the environmental background, which in the use of ionised air, falling water and a changing pattern of coloured lighting might be said to bring the "new age" to workplace design.


Winner London Region - small projects - Sponsored by IBEX Interiors Ltd
Workforce Academy, Ebenezer Steet, London N1

Client

Workforce

Architect

Levitt Bernstein

Services Engineer

Hoare Lea & Partners

Quantity Surveyor

Wheeler Group LLP

Main Contractor

IBEX Interiors Ltd


Workforce exists to give those whose circumstances mean that they might be excluded from the world of work an opportunity of receiving training, gaining a qualification, and getting into employment. This is good work, and it needs a good building: tough without being hostile, uplifting without being frivolous - and all within the constraint of a pretty tight budget.

Levitt Bernstein and their team have achieved this, creating a place that is eminently fit for its purpose. To do this they have had to design the space around two potentially conflicting principles - the culture of accessibility that is core to Workforce's operations, and the needs of security and staff and customer safety. This is achieved by opening up the plan as much as possible (including creating a cut-out in the floor of the base building above the reception area), using colour rather than partitions to define space wherever possible, and by balancing the use of transparency and opacity in the partitioning. The need to put customers at their ease is also clear from the point of arrival, with the potentially formal nature of the reception area moderated by an adjoining café.

The building also demonstrates how flexible "office" environments have to be and can be - with, as well as conventional office use, some of the space here used for training, and some for life skills (including a mini flat with a fully functioning kitchen).

Working with a frankly unpromising base building, and making only minimal adjustments to its fabric, the team has managed to produce a fit-out that comfortably accommodates the good work for which it was intended.


Winner Midlands/East Anglia Region - small projects - Sponsored by IBEX Interiors Ltd
The Audit Commission, Friarsgate, Solihull

Client

The Audit Commission

Project Manager

Capital Project Consultancy

Architect

BGP McConaghy Architects Ltd

Workplace Engineer

Andrew Wilkes Management

Quantity Surveyor

BGP McConaghy Architects Ltd

Main Contractor

Genus Property Services

Landlord's Representatives

Jones Lang LaSalle, focus fm


As it is the business of the Audit Commission to test for the efficiency and value for money of local government services, it is entirely appropriate that they should look at their own business in the same way. At Friarsgate, the result was a fairly radical reappraisal of the kind of office accommodation best suited to their operations. This included, as for so many organisations moving to new premises, bringing all staff under one roof, and making a move to open plan working. As many of the staff spend a lot of their working lives based in the organisations that they are auditing, an element of hot desking was also adopted.

The setting for this new way of working was a standard 1980's business park building that already housed part of the Commission's Central Region staff. It was also, however, a building that suffered from poor thermal comfort, and inadequate ventilation, so one innovation made here was the introduction of filtered fresh air delivered direct to the workstation through grilles set into the desk, borrowing the technology of the car dashboard. This was supplemented by an increase in air supply to the space as a whole, and by furniture layouts based on the principle of opening windows.

The other essential of open plan working is also here: a variety of alternative work settings, including bookable quiet rooms, meeting rooms, and a large break-out area which doubles-up for refreshment and presentation/training.

Perhaps one of the strongest lessons is that, with appropriate treatment, progressive work settings can be achieved in entirely conventional, even dated, commercial space.