White Paper 02: The Technology Workplace
Over the past seven years Bates Smart has designed over 60,000 sqm of technology workplace including projects for: ASX Australian Liquidity Centre; Twitter and Campaign Monitor. What have we learned? To find out read our latest white paper ‘The Technology Workplace’.
Australian Technology Park Design Competition
Urban renewal to capture a rising generation of innovators
Director, Bates Smart
A holistic approach to urban renewal is being fuelled by the demand for authentic work/life experience in city fringe regeneration areas. The low-tech revolution is driven largely by tech companies that eschew the futuristic 'tech-utopia' in favour of diverse environments that are anything but an office park.
Our research has focused on how to create a bona fide technology ecosystem, adaptable to future uses that aren't even imaginable today. Bates Smart recently took part in a design competition for the The Australian Technology Park in Sydney, Director, Philip Vivian, explains the design approach:
"Future workplaces will create or be part of an authentic urban environment, allowing work to happen everywhere. These places will be mixed-use, integrating cafes and restaurants, as well as shops and apartments: a place to live, work, and relax. Tomorrow's workplace is the city.
"The masterplan framework we propose creates a holistic city precinct, a self-sustaining ecosystem of diverse organisations in a range of tenancy sizes, from the incubated start-up to campus size floorplates linked by bridges. In this arrangement big companies support the small start-ups and small companies help the big firms innovate. They facilitate growth and nurture growing technologies.
"We believe the answer lies in long life/loose fit/low energy buildings. We have identified five principles to building in flexibility and adaptability, where low tech is the new high tech:
1. High ceilings (3.5m to soffit)
2. Concrete core cooling
3. Operable windows
4. Flexible occupation
5. Stays cold / stays warm
Our design proposes to break down the block size to increase permeability of the site, increase its street frontage and create a series of low scaled buildings in keeping with the existing heritage stock. The heritage listed locomotive workshops are refurbished to provide a range of office, retail and hospitality spaces. New office space is designed to provide ample daylight to the deep floorplates.
"Gathering spaces, retail and wellness facilities are arranged at ground level to maximise activation and draw in the surrounding community. Public open spaces and a fine grained network of laneways will create the diverse and contrasting social conditions where urban life thrives."
Purpose designed and highly connected workplaces drive innovation in spaces to think, collaborate and create. Long-life loose fit buildings provide flexible, scalable and multifunctional space with room for diverse companies to coexist.
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Campaign Monitor's new home embodies the tech organisation typology
A space that works hard
Head of Employee Experience & Philanthropy, Campaign Monitor
As tech start-ups mature, their need for grown-up space in the centre of the city increases. Finding accommodation to suit a rapidly expanding team is mostly the easy bit, transposing a workplace culture borne out of a suburban surfing lifestyle is more challenging.
When online marketing company Campaign Monitor relocated from their start-up premises in Sutherland to the centre of Sydney it was vital that nothing of the original energy was lost.
Bates Smart created a vibrant, collaborative and energetic workplace to emulate the feel of a start-up while responding to Campaign Monitor's evolution as one of the most exciting tech firms in the region. The best evidence of this project's success has been the seamless staff transition to their new workspace on day one.
Karen Clark, Head of Employee Experience and Philanthropy at Campaign Monitor explains:
"It's difficult to describe accurately the impact this space has had on our business, our people and the unique way we work. From the very first day we moved into our new space, our team began using the area as it was specifically designed.
"That morning, meeting rooms were being used, the collaboration spaces were hosting small team workshops and we enjoyed our first group lunch in our unique, light filled dining area.
"The success of the space and it's acceptance by our employees from that that first day can be directly attributed to our engagement of a skilled Design Team that understood our business and the vision we had."
Creating a social hub was another key driver for the business in order to maintain their culture of camaraderie. The premium space in the building occupying a third of the top floor has been dedicated to a large staff dining and games area with sweeping views over Hyde Park.
The quality of the outcome and level of client satisfaction with their fitout is testament to a solid architect-client relationship which produced a robust project brief and a successful project design and delivery.
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Leading global education provider looks to the future
Navitas is a leading global education provider delivering a range of educational services to over 80,000 students in 31 countries. In 2014, Navitas turned to Bates Smart to transform their Sydney campus, to ensure they are future-ready for the rapid changes to the way we learn, driven by technology, shifting demographics and the demands of new economies.
By establishing their campus in the heart of the CBD, Navitas are positioning themselves to deliver extensive education services close to where their students work through an emerging building type, the vertical campus.
A series of visionary workshops resulted in the design of the new 18,000 sqm vertical campus across 14 floors. The sticky campus facilitates a dynamic mix of social and mixed-mode learning spaces in a technology-rich environment. In order to establish a cohesive vertical learning community, the design team developed a best practice ideology based on connectivity and adaptability.
Navitas Sydney is a co-location and complex interweave of 6 individual business units each supported by learning commons and branded front of house spaces. The Bates Smart team proposed a 'Round Pegs in Square Holes' design narrative to define contrasting campus activities in the program of vertical spaces.
Round circular settings distinguish unstructured learning and social spaces from the 'square' programmed activity and teaching spaces embedded with technology, including data capture and interactive white boards. The teaching spaces are tightly programmed to maximise space usage through a complex booking system. Teaching and administration staff are supported with a diverse range of workspaces and shared breakout spaces.
The project is due for completion in September 2016.
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Twitter's First dedicated Australian office
Determining the regional DNA
Bates Smart's design team embraced Twitter’s own definition of themselves as a ‘grown-up start-up’ employing sophisticated materials and finishes in a welcome departure from the typical start-up aesthetic.The result is a highly varied program of spaces that balance the global brand standards with the design wish-list of a proud local team.
Having previously occupied a local serviced office, Twitter engaged Bates Smart to design their first dedicated Australian office, located in Sydney's central business district.
Strategic client briefing sessions resulted in a concept to incorporate Twitter’s global design standards but also recognise the bright and passionate team’s desire to make the fit-out feel unique to Sydney.
A fresh-looking palette of light colours, strong textures and natural materials reflects the open and informal community that is Twitter, while art installations capture Twitter’s global identity in Australia including a tribute wall to former Australian test cricketer Phil Hughes and the striking brass and neon installation #Lovewhereyouwork.
To determine the regional DNA, the team drew on the coastal feel that Australian beach houses do so well. The spaces incorporate bespoke plantation shutters, rattan, and sandstone and light, breezy fabrics, brass anodized metal detailing throughout unifies the concept. An extensive digital overlay was incorporated, enabling the sales team to instantly customise meeting rooms in support of customer branded events. Environmental branding walls convey the Twitter here and now, touching on the 24-hour worldwide conversation that the company facilitates.
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Hi tech meccas
The tech ecosystems that are changing our cities
Philip Vivian + Cate Cowlishaw
The rise of the start up has changed the face of the real estate business for ever. Once multinationals dominated the city with stable workforces and 5+5+5 leases in premium buildings underpinning the commercial hearts of our urban centres. Now the fastest growing businesses are home grown start-ups, moving out of their parents’ garage and looking for a new home, one that nurtures their individual cultures. As well as having a focus on culture, start-ups are unpredictable, with rapid growth that is incompatible with conventional leasing structures.
As the start-ups have become grown-ups they have sought to retain the qualities that led to their success, while supporting their need for growth. This has driven the trend to find unconventional real estate solutions to suit their needs. Technology companies are often born out of an anti-conforming attitude: think of disruptor companies who are rewriting the rules such as Uber or Google leaving governments struggling to update regulations and taxation laws. This same “disruptive” attitude is often applied to both their approach to workplace and its place in the wider city.
We all know the clichés about tech companies - they prefer warehouse spaces, 24-hour chefs, foosball tables and bean bags over boardroom tables– but is this truism representative of all tech businesses? How do they influence the wider urban fabric around them? What happens when that tech business is absorbed into a broader business? There are two broad approaches we see technology companies applying to their location and their premises.
The neighbourhood becomes the office
With a focus on culture and individuality, technology businesses are attracted to unconventional workspaces. Although seeing the workplace as a major contributor to nurturing their business and importantly, attracting highly sought after staff, they are not simply seeking the same spaces as is being vacated by financial companies. Repurposed industrial complexes such as the Australian Technology Park at Eveleigh, Sydney, provide the type of flexible, character spaces that suits their needs. When tech companies do move into established commercial precincts, they rip up the marble floors and ceiling grids and inject their own character.
The workplace vision of tech companies can be anything but technological, preferring spaces that mirror their start up beginnings, and give the “best” spaces to their staff rather than a traditional client facing front of house. They also want to create a strong team culture, while recognising the strong need for focused individual work that leads to truly innovative outcomes.
Increasingly, tech workers see themselves as working in a neighbourhood rather than a building, and the character of the neighbourhood must also “fit” with the culture of the business. Where once tech companies sought visionary technology utopias, today they are more likely to want a white collar factory with an industrial aesthetic in the heart of the city. In place of a Utopian vision, often in natural settings with bold ‘wow’ factor designs, today’s technology company is seeking authentic urban experiences in the city, where people can connect with each other and city life. As like attracts like, this has led to the development of “tech hubs”. This clustering effect is occurring on both a local and global scale.
Clustering and the creation of tech-ecosystems are following a familiar pattern on a global scale, whereby tech companies, incubators and start-ups seek out shared workspace in old buildings and reinhabit city laneways in the pursuit of work and play. Ecosystems require flexible workspaces from start-up space to step-up space, an aggregation of goods and services tailored to tech companies and robust public transport networks. In an industry where one would assume you could work anywhere, the need to plug into the ecosystem of support services, a rich employment pool and access to venture funding has rather created clusters of creative growth not only in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, but also Boston, due to the proximity to MIT and Austin, Texas, the headquarters of Dell.
These companies rely on clusters of like-minded individuals co-working on start-ups, new apps, disruptors, etc. Many companies encourage their staff to work on their own innovations while at work, and are happy to spawn new companies for new products. The idea of open source is completely contrary to the corporate security we see from large multi-nationals. Google, for instance, is constantly innovating and diversifying with new companies such as Google Earth and Gmail.
When working from anywhere is possible, the neighbourhood becomes the office. Public space and active street life, therefore, assume greater importance and are highly valued over the remote suburban tech hub. Where once Silicon Valley was the heartland of the tech industry, it is now more likely to be Silicon Alley in Lower Manhattan, Block 71 in Singapore or Silicon Roundabout in London - the third largest tech startup area after San Francisco and New York. New buildings such as Allies & Morrison’s White Collar Factory, London, seek to emulate this anti-conformist attitude and industrial aesthetic.
Iconic and isolated
On the other hand, as tech companies mature, there is a trend towards recreating that ecosystem within their own controlled environment. Many influential organisations from Apple to Yahoo to Bell Labs and MIT have realised that the physical environment can purposefully create opportunities for collaboration and have sought to develop self-contained environments that achieve this desired outcome. Think of Marrisa Mayer’s famous ban on working from home when she was appointed CEO of Yahoo. and Steve Jobs obsessing over ways to encourage chance encounters in the design of Pixar’s headquarters in the 1990s. Further back, MIT’s notable Building 20 had (accidentally) demonstrated the same principles since the 1940s.
Some of the biggest tech companies in the world are currently constructing new headquarters that seek to capture their unique culture, amplify it and drive them to ever greater heights. Facebook has just completed a new complex by Frank Gehry, Apple is working with Norman Foster and Google with BIG and Heatherwick. These buildings can be seen as artificially recreating the organic complexity of inner city sites their smaller counter parts prefer.
In a similar vein is the Cornell Tech Campus proposed for Roosevelt Island in New York, where starchitects such as Weiss Manfredi have proposed structurally daring designs within an SOM masterplan on an island surrounded by landscape.
So what does it mean for technology teams within broader businesses?
Most businesses now have significant tech teams within their broader operations. Australia’s major banks have declared that they increasingly see themselves as technology businesses as much as financial institutions. With the raised visibility of the culture and work flow of tech teams within more diverse businesses, there is increased realisation of the benefits that approach can bring to the wider organisation. Major corporations such as NAB and GPT are now actively introducing incubators and co-working spaces into their physical environments. This influences the built form of their workspaces, these spaces require flexibility for rapid reconfiguration, and have often located close to public spaces, encouraging a village like atmosphere within a more traditional corporate environment.
Major companies will rewrite the workplace logic of Sydney
As technology has become an indispensable part of how we do business, so it becomes an influential force on our built environment. This is driven both by the way tech companies inhabit the city, and by the way their products influence our behaviour. In Australia and NSW, we have governments who are seeking to grow this knowledge economy and deliver broader benefits to wider community. Nowhere is this more evident in major urban regeneration projects both underway and anticipated, such as the tram sheds in Australian Technology Park and the White Bay Power Station.
So what will it mean for workplaces in the future? I believe we will see a greater focus on place making, and creating environments with public space and active street life. Workplaces will be more about connective spaces, activation and authenticity, with less interest in the metrics that used to be the measure of good space.
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Digital design and documentation platforms
Creating a fluid and dynamic process
Associate Director Joachim Clauss makes a case for blurring the interface between design, fabrication and construction leading to more refined design solutions and accelerated construction times.
“The times where architects and designers had to stand at the sidelines of fabrication processes are long gone. Reaching out to the fabrication industry to partner early in the project is fundamental, it allows us to understand limitations, constraints and opportunities as well as accurate costing.
The design team can evolve a design with fabrication in mind and resolve geometry early in the process while facilitating accelerated delivery and refining the design resolution.
“Our team is currently developing a design and fabrication process that uses part models to inform and drive a robotic fabrication process. We are exchanging 3d models for fabrication – in a fluid and dynamic interchange.
“Stringently defined interfaces between design, fabrication and the construction process are no longer relevant. At Bates Smart, we complement our in-house BIM skills with parametric design tools to assist in the design process and development of complex forms. Geometrical or environmental analysis allows us to explore traditional design factors such as environmental conditions in a much more detailed and informed way.”
Joachim Clauss is an Associate Director at Bates Smart with more than 15 years experience accrued in Australia, Germany and South Africa. He is currently leading the Opera and Collins House projects as well as a number of feasibility studies and masterplans.
Joachim is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne, RMIT and the University of Applied Sciences Berlin. He has acquired extensive knowledge in the field of design technology, advanced computational design, robotic fabrication and is a regular contributor to various industry forums such as MelBIM and the RTC Conference.
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106 Flinders Street, Melbourne
A hi-tech space with low-tech aspirations
Director, Bates Smart
Designed for an architectural physicist in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, 106 Flinders Street rethinks the conventional workplace vocabulary and its elements. It is a contradictory space, at once raw and yet embedded with technology, highly refined yet hand crafted, universally appealing, yet highly individual.
As a highly specialised engineer, the client focuses his work on inventing and researching new sustainable technologies. In recognition of this focus, the prime material used is a sustainable timber. Used with minimal wastage, even off cuts have been crafted into furniture and door handles.
Bates Smart worked closely with a meticulous and passionate carpenter who singlehandedly crafted the space over many months. Very few drawings were produced, rather the space evolved collaboratively between architect and craftsman. What emerged from the design process was clarity of space and materiality through the use of a singular materiality wrapping floors, walls and ceilings into one rough saw holistic enclosure.
Kristen Whittle, Design Director, Bates Smart quotes “This is a highly nuanced and original solution custom tailored for a very special person.
This is a space that induces calmness, wellbeing and creativity, signalling what the future of work could be – focused on idea creation and collaboration”.
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Tech teams are changing the workplace landscape of our cities
Kellie Payne on flipping the office model on its head
In a world where technology allows us to work anywhere, at any time, those that are enabling this freedom spend more time at their desks than any other industry, writes Bates Smart Workplace Strategist Kellie Payne. 'The New Technology Workplace' was first published in The Australian. Read the full article below.
THE NEW TECHNOLOGY WORKPLACE
Not the digital nomads we imagine them to be, digital teams are highly organised and work in close collaboration. Their workday flows between stand up meetings, highly focused coding, constant team chats and the odd (highly) competitive game of ping pong. The way these teams are organised has been the greatest transformation in the way people work that we’ve seen in decades, and by the might of tech companies’ explosive growth, this is changing the workplace landscape of our cities.
In one of the greatest shifts since the world went open plan, tech workplaces are flipping the office model on its head, allocating more space for quiet work, team meetings and socialising.
So what does this look like? Smaller desks, no ‘client’ meeting rooms, more ad-hoc meeting spaces and much larger ‘hang out’ areas. Although they spend a lot of time at their desks, their desks workspaces are smaller and closer together for better team dynamics. This means tech companies can give just 30 per cent of their space to individual desks compared to the 40 to 45 per cent allocated in other businesses. It’s a new world order in office design and one I think will be picked up by traditional industries, resulting in huge changes to the commercial leasing environment.
Tech companies are leading the pack in office layout changes because they are highly rational and work in a different way. They work in teams so need their own desk, but it doesn’t have to be big. They have constant short meetings so instead of large meeting rooms they need quick spaces where they can stand up, ‘scrum’ for 15 minutes to see where everyone is at and then get back to work.Their space includes quiet places to escape to for ‘in the zone’ work and social spaces for opportunities to get to know and appreciate ‘the team’. Most importantly, 25 per cent of space is devoted to wellbeing and social activities.
For everyone else the key is to have the best of both worlds – to offer your workforce collaborative office space for productive group team work, inclusive spaces to hang out and replenish energy, and to also provide designated individual quiet areas for individually-focused work.
The relevance of these changes are impacting more than just startups. With businesses warding off disruptors, most companies are dramatically changing their workplace strategies to accommodate their burgeoning fintech or tech teams.
In our work with some of the country’s largest tech brands like Twitter, ASX and Campaign Monitor in addition to incubators and start-ups, we are seeing tech workplaces grow at an exponential rate.Some businesses recent forecasts predict growth as high as 50 per cent per annum. This is a massive jump compared to other professional firms, which have an average growth rate of only two per cent per annum.
We’re also seeing big businesses move out of Sydney and Melbourne’s city fringe and CBD markets and seeing both tech giants and start-ups alike move in to take their place, seeking larger floorplate offerings for collaborative spaces.
As a result, we have been asked to strip out A-Grade marbled lobby and building fit outs worth millions of dollars in order to achieve a look that better fits with their brand. Besides these aesthetic designs, this is where the rest of us can learn from the new tech workplace. They have understood how they work best and what they require from their workspace.
Thanks to the continued innovations of tech companies, designers like us are creating office spaces that are relevant to our client’s business both now and in the future. This means basing designs not just on who our clients are, but what they can become.
Images: ASX Liquidity Centre, Artartmon
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Attracting the best technology talent
Leveraging non-financial factors to boost recruitment and retention
In researching the IT Whitepaper our team identified six factors that matter most to tech company staff and none of them are financial.
Associate Director, Kellie Payne, talks to Inside HR Magazine about the intangibles that boost recruitment and retention: 6 Keys to Attracting the Best Technology Talent
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