Organisations today are becoming increasingly aware of the role property plays in supporting their business, however many large space users still believe their property choices are limited to buildings on offer and solutions that may not dovetail with their business moving forward. Why?
One reason is that the time it takes to go through the process of selecting, negotiating, building a fitout and moving are often underestimated; once the process is commenced, time quickly runs out and a decision is forced. Another is the belief that getting a space that has been ‘tweaked for purpose’ will be cost prohibitive.
There are two key considerations which can assist in ensuring property choices are made which support a business adequately.
Firstly, it is critical to take into consideration new work styles, technologies and social trends that influence how we work and communicate. The way we use space and the type of accommodation that supports these activities must evolve in accordance and therefore the type of building and workspace that supported the business in the past may not be what is required for the future.
Organisations will significantly benefit from some time exploring the likely changes their future holds. The best way to do this is by undertaking a property and workplace strategy which considers global influences, key drivers and possible changes in the business. Gaining clarity and consensus as to how the building will evolve will lead to greater confidence in decision making. An added benefit is information gathered can become the foundation for the development of richer criteria that can be used to articulate building attributes that will better support the business. Provided construction is not too far progressed, most developers are willing and able to incorporate minor changes without increasing prices.
The benefits of developing a workplace strategy are highlighted by New Zealand developer Cullom Manson “Without that expertise on the tenant side, corporates tend to spin in one spot - they can’t make the call, there not really sure which direction to take. If they have design people on board from the start, it streamlines the process, so it’s good for everybody. It makes it happen quicker, which is really what we’re all about. If tenants drag the chain too much, they can miss opportunities, or find themselves in all sorts of strife with their leases and premises requirements”.
The other consideration is starting the process as early as possible, enabling greater choice and uniquely tailored solutions. Manson says with the Telecom NZ project, had the tenant come along three or four months later, it would have been harder to change direction due to the progression of the design and overall process. There are limitations to the changes that can be made once a building design is finalised and even more once construction commences; however, it is not impossible to make changes. The key is to start early and to develop a good collaborative working relationship with the building developer and architect to incorporate changes without impacting the project programme and budget.
Three examples follow that demonstrate this process, one in New Zealand, one in Australia and the last in the Middle East and illustrate the benefits of working with a developer and architect to tweak the building for purpose. While it is not unusual for space users to add stairs, voids and other design modifications as a part of an integrated fitout, the types of changes outlined below go beyond. These examples give an appreciation of the kinds of business driven changes that can be incorporated and also illustrate how the physical environment can tangibly contribute to business sustainability.
Cochlear Limited. Sydney, Australia.
As the world leader in implantable hearing solutions, Cochlear rely on the longevity of their product to market. A surgical procedure is required to implant a hearing device; therefore, the expectation that an implant perform for the lifetime of a recipient is critical to the reputation of the company. Marketing is done in part by inviting surgeons to the company headquarters to observe Cochlear’s R&D, manufacturing and shipping processes.
It is the surgeon who must understand, trust and ultimately play a key role in advising patients on cochlear implant products. This, along with Cochlear’s unique requirements for laboratory space, drove changes in the building. To use the building as a marketing tool meant large presentation and tour groups would need to be accommodated. Importantly, these tours could not conflict with product being transported from the clean room manufacturing areas to the warehouse and loading docks.
Through an integrated and collaborative design process between Cochlear, Geyer and base building architects Toland Architectural Design Partners, it was agreed that to address this, the core of the building would be repositioned and a separate lift lobby for each activity would be incorporated.
Additional changes to the building curtain wall and building facade provide greater visibility and allow Cochlear to use the building as a ‘billboard’, making it easier to locate in the Macquarie University campus and communicate the company’s collaborative culture. Additional building services modifications and re-engineering for heavy loads allow large clean room environments and heavy manufacturing equipment to be accommodated.
Changes to enable double height areas for warehousing and loading docks, as well as the addition of exterior entertaining decks were all incorporated into the design. Cochlear Project Development Manager – Facilities, Stephen Shears says, “The ability to incorporate large flexible clean room into the new building is a huge plus. Our colleagues in the US recently visited and are in awe of the flexibility we have in not only being able to evolve the clean room layout as our lean manufacturing process evolves, but also the way the layout allows visitors to observe manufacturing without interfering with the process. The new layout makes the building and workspace far more valuable in productivity and attracting the standard of employee required for our company.”
Telecom New Zealand. Auckland, Sydney.
Changes in the highly competitive telecommunication industry have led Telecom to reconsider their business model and customer service approach; at the same time, demands that Telecom be more in touch with New Zealanders were key influences of the Telecom New Zealand Accommodation and property strategy.
As a very public company the message the community receives through the physical environment was a critical factor in the selection of the building and workplace design. It was recognised that the building and workplace would demonstrate Telecom’s commitment to being better connected to the community, to customers, and their own people far more than any marketing campaign they might undertake. Initial property searches in Auckland were unable to yield buildings large enough to house the consolidation of 14 different leased sites in Auckland into a single low rise campus. Telecom did not want a 30 story tower that would create vertical separation; it wanted a low rise horizontal campus.
Other specialised requirements such as: the ability to represent many brands that exist under the Telecom umbrella, the imminent decision by the New Zealand government thatTelecom would be required to undertake operational separation (under the Telecommunications Act 2001) and the desire to have a building that invited the community to become a part of the organisation were all drivers behind the site selection. The decision to work closely with the developer and the architect to amend a building ensured Telecom could have a building that was the right size and in the right location, with the attributes they required.
Changes to the building include the addition of a glass roof capturing space between the buildings creates an atrium, the introduction of sky bridges and stairs link the quadrants of the building and create a dynamic interior space. Changes to the building facade were negotiated to create a more contemporary feel and unite the four quadrants. The ground floor has been cleared to create a public plaza, maintain contextual links and support pedestrian traffic flow. The public are invited to be a part of Telecom and experience their innovation, as well as gain exposure to the company’s inner culture.
Bank Muscat. Oman.
Cultural overtones and modern Islamic sensitivities are clearly evident in the building designed to house the largest bank in Muscat, the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman. The building has been conceived as a vehicle to support communication, connection and collaboration amongst bank employees and the community they support. As a people driven business, the new headquarters has greater openness and actively demonstrates the importance Omani pay to family and community.
The design of the building features a ground floor ‘main street’ given over to the public which features the retail bank, restaurants and shops and an auditorium that can be used for internal bank presentation, public events, or to show films to family and friends of employees. The main street had always been a part of the original proposal, however, the integration of the public spaces and bank workplace had not been resolved.
John Cooper, Deputy General Manager eBanking, Technology, Operations, Processes and Systems at Bank Muscat in Oman agrees the process of thinking forward and considering evolutions in the banking industry, work styles and communication trends led us to reconsider the design of the main street area. “Changes we made did not impact the architect’s vision, but did significantly enhance our ability to use the space the way we wanted”.
By removing planned escalators it was possible to separate the two physically, while maintaining visual connection. Transparency into bank spaces was further enhanced by the addition of protruding balconies to the main street.
Containing the public on the main street allows bank employees to travel freely between floors and to use the many amenity spaces provided in the building without the need to pass through security barriers.
Interconnecting stairs, atrium spaces and sky bridges were added to further activate the workspace and provide additional opportunities for connection. These building modifications help create a physical environment that actively supports the banks business drivers of aspiring to greater connection, collaboration and the main street design gives space back to the community.
The ability to amend the design of a building is well within the reach of many tenants. Changes that can be made extend well beyond the amendments common in integrated fitouts.
By beginning early and strategically identifying the attributes that will make a building support the business, companies will be in a better position to create building criteria that will articulate their needs rather than accepting what is offered.
While larger tenants have significantly more leveraging power, it is not impossible for smaller tenants to join with others and approach a building landlord to request changes to the building or suggest the introduction of shared amenity that can benefit the whole building population. The trick is time and vision and the realisation that it is not necessary to accept something that doesn’t suit the business’s needs.
A workspace is a significant investment to any organisation, it makes sense to get the most from it.