Good Grace

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We have to be extremely honest and admit that we’re horribly late getting to our appointment at chapmanbdsp’s new working home on the edge of the City of London. We hoped we’d timed things perfectly, organising our meeting in the narrow window between our two Mixology awards judging sessions across in Clerkenwell.

We should know better than to trust in London’s traffic! With road closures, works and diversions at pretty much every turn, there’s little our poor taxi driver can do for us – and he’s probably been stuck in this all morning.

As we reach the Gracechurch Street space (we even jogged the last 100 yards or so), we hurry up to chapmanbdsp’s 6th floor facility and make our sincere apologies. Our hosts are more than gracious, of course, and clearly understand the trials and tribulations of London’s traffic network. We’re even told that Chief Executive, Ray Upjohn, is also struggling through traffic – and when, just a couple of minutes later, Ray arrives and offers us his own apologies, we learn that, ironically, he too has just arrived from Clerkenwell and no doubt followed the same frustrating route!

Traveling across London might currently be tricky, but this, we soon learn, is part of the reason for chapmanbdsp’s relocation to this part of London. ‘We were previously based in Farringdon – on Saffron Hill,’ Ray recalls. ‘We were across two floors there and communication between the floors wasn’t great – there was a real divide between the two.

‘We were also in a different part of town from the majority of our clients, which wasn’t ideal.’ chapmanbdsp specialises in building services engineering and environmental design, delivering world-class projects across a range of sectors.

The company commissioned KKS to relocate the workplace to 40 Gracechurch Street, not only moving from two floors to one single floorplate, but also using the relocation as an opportunity to undertake a complete assessment of the office culture as part of a major rebrand.

Their dynamic new brand and visual elements reflect how the business has grown in the past 45 years. KKS has incorporated this new branding into the design of the space and provided a workplace design that creates a sense of wellbeing, whilst reinforcing chapmanbdsp’s environmental ethos.

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Above: Biophilia incorporated into the workplace

We ask our hosts about the process behind this impressive new working home. ‘We looked at what we wanted going forward, where we needed to be for our clients and also looked at our own people – and made a decision on the back of all that to come here,’ Ray says. ‘We quickly moved to get our people thinking about designing the space, we got KKS involved early and organised workshops with the guys here. We rebranded and moved on the same day – which was a huge cultural shift for us – and we’ve seen some really positive results in the seven months we’ve been here.

‘It was a big change for us,’ Ray confirms. ‘We had to demonstrate that we didn’t need such a great attachment to paper, for example. Everyone’s responded really well though. They now realise that they don’t need 50 drawings on their desk. So they now get a personal locker and a nominated area of filing shelf – and if they fill that shelf then they should be throwing some of it away or scanning it into the system.

“We looked at what we wanted going forward, where we needed to be for our clients and also looked at our own people”

‘This space was formerly the home of a retail fit-out company that was acquired by ISG. We employed an agent and came and had a look at the space. We could have stayed where we were, but we had a really good deal here and we were also able to restore some of the existing facilities here. We then talked about moving some of the other facilities, added what we wanted, worked out a deal for the space and brought in KKS, who quickly devised some of the layouts – which have really personalised the space for us. Our people love it – they’re really proud of it. This immediately gave the new brand some substance. Another great advantage this has brought us is that it is just so easy to get to for our clients – despite the traffic on days like today! We now have clients come in to see us who really wouldn’t have done when we were back in Farringdon.’

Paul Cahalan, Head of Communications at chapmanbdsp, adds: ‘We’ve totally changed the way we work – we now have agile working – and KKS has done some really clever stuff with the design to bring everyone together and make the space work in a seamless way.

‘To be honest, a lot of the guys here don’t really know why it works in the way it does – but it really does work! I really do think that, as an office, this is now starting to really function how we hoped it would – the collaborative spaces, the drop-in spaces, the hub…all these things are changing people’s perceptions of how they can work.

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Above: Biophilia incorporated into the workplace

‘We’ve never been so popular. We’ve put great coffee in here, everyone is happy to get in earlier and leave later, we recently had wellness week, we’ve got yoga, table tennis, talks on exercise and fitness… it’s totally changed the way we look at things. We simply didn’t have that previously. We can now host all of these things because we have an incredibly adaptable space that allows everybody to come together. We’re now working as a single team and, thanks to all the hub and breakout space we have here and the smart, adaptable nature of the space, for a company of our size, we’re now punching well above our weight!’

We’re told that all this was achieved with a relatively tight budget and even tighter timelines.

“Our people love it – they’re really proud of it. This immediately gave the new brand some substance”

‘We’ve repurposed and reused a lot of the material here,’ Paul tells us. ‘A lot of the stuff that was originally going to be stripped out we made sure was left in, saving on the carbon side of things. ‘I do think that the early engagement with KKS was critical to the success of the scheme. There was a really quick turnaround here – and on top of the rebranding and synching everything together – was quite a feat. There was a lot going on.

‘The office move was the catalyst for the cultural change. We brought KKS in to present to the staff, to show them what the space could look like. From there, it was the staff, through committees, who chose the furnishings, the breakout space design – they had a hand in all of this. We have four offices – Kent, Birmingham, Dubai and London – and it was also important that we brought each of those offices in to the process.

‘We now have 64% of our people are under 40 – and this space really suits the agile way in which they work. We were, however, mindful that the office would cater for a broad range of ages – and would help us be able to retain and attract talent.

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Above: Patio space

Ray kindly offers to walk us through the new space, starting with the communal breakout/canteen, which is smartly appointed behind smart reception area. Here Ray points out a number of the ‘saved’ items from the previous tenants’ scheme, including a series of eye-catching booths, which blend perfectly into the colourful, bright, buzzy space.

‘We had doubled our occupancy in the six years we were in the Saffron Hill space, so we simply didn’t have anything like this. We didn’t have great meeting and breakout facilities. Now we are able to hold town hall meetings, events and presentations here,’ Ray tells us, as we take the short walk though to the main working area. ‘There were previously a row of pods in the middle here, which took all the light away from the space. We’ve followed the WELL principles here.

You’ll see that we have height adjustable furniture, all that natural light and plenty of biophilia. Our people work in neighbourhoods. Every four or five months we’ll move the neighbourhoods so that people get to work alongside different colleagues and different departments. We can’t be 100% agile due to the fact that some of our engineers still require specialist facilities.’

The open floorplate includes a garden path, which circulates the floorplate, maximising the benefit of that increased natural light. Informal, soft seating is placed along the walkways so that the best of the natural light is available to all. The space is cleverly organised to encourage collaboration, as well as providing quiet oases for individual working. It is this flexibility and freedom that undoubtedly allows chapmanbdsp’s new working home to thrive. KKS really has designed a space that reinforces the new brand and reflects the innovative culture of chapmanbdsp.

Project Team

Client
chapmanbdsp

Interior Designer
KKS

Furniture Provider
Broadbase Furniture Solutions

Furniture Suppliers
Senator, Bisley, Herman Miller, Humanscale

Storage
Silverline

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Above: Garden Path leading to the patio