We’re back in our ‘hometown’ of Manchester – and back at the impressive XYZ Building – to take a look at yet another forward-thinking, groundbreaking project. We might have been here before – but in terms of workspace, this is something completely new to us.
NCC Group is a global expert in cyber security and risk mitigation, working with businesses to protect their brand, value and reputation in the ever-evolving threat landscape. It employs 2,000 people in over 35 offices worldwide and its new Manchester HQ is now home to 500.
Set over three 20,000 sq ft floorplates, OBI Property and NCC Group have worked together to create a workspace that seamlessly integrates highly secure hubs with open plan breakout areas through an effective, intelligent use of colour, textures, furnishings and fixtures. We take a look around with NCC Group interim CEO, Brian Tenner, and OBI Property Workplace Consultant, Andrew Crompton.
‘NCC Group’s single biggest asset is its people and the company engaged us to deliver a workplace to not just reflect the business and its brand, but to encourage, by design, interaction and collaboration between its people,’ Andrew tells us. ‘Our brief was to create an office that reflected NCC Group’s corporate position as a world-leading business and we chose the XYZ Building because it provided us with a huge blank canvas to work with.’
‘We’re trying to create an environment that fosters the creativity and productivity of our staff,’ Brian explains, ‘which isn’t just a place where they can work harder and longer, but somewhere they like and enjoy being – and even have fun in.’
We ask Andrew how OBI Property approached the brief. ‘Our overall approach was to create an office environment across three floors, which had the same design foundation – fundamentally reflecting the NCC Group brand but each work area, whether it be open plan or secure, reflected the feel and vibe of the different areas and activity.
‘We used an extended colour palette, respecting the NCC Group brand identity, and added different yet considered textures, fixtures, fittings and decorations to indicate different activities in different areas.’
A significant element of the design is the red core, which runs vertically through each of the three floors. We ask why this very solid element is important to the overall design. ‘The core helps to tie the three floors together and acts as a beacon of quality, security and strength,’ Andrew explains. ‘The structure’s clad panel design helps screen NCC’s most secure spaces behind hidden doors and solid slab-to-slab partitioning.
‘It also creates a commanding secure lobby on all three floors, while still maintaining access through points for staff, alongside graphic images and filtered views through to the less critical secure spaces that help the staff relax and gather socially.’
Andrew tells us that the copper ceiling in the reception area was designed to signify NCC Group’s ties to cyber security through the intimation of a Faraday Cage. It’s location within the cut-out of the red panel cladding indicates the reception as an open, warm, welcoming area but still holds secure connotations that reinforce the NCC Group brand.
‘The natural quality of copper means that, over time, the material will enrich in colour and change the overall ambience of the reception, helping to represent NCC’s longevity and commitment to quality,’ Andrew enthuses.
An important consideration for OBI Property was that every one of the 500 staff, with the exception of several secure hubs, had to be able to see out of a window and have access to natural daylight. In open work areas, desks are aligned at up to 90 degrees to the windows, while meeting spaces along the external façade feature full-height internal glazing to allow natural light through to the centre of the building.
Another challenge for the team, as we’ve already touched upon, was the incorporation of a number of highly secure areas within the office – but without making the areas and those around them feel remote and unwelcoming. Andrew tells us that OBI addressed this by effectively hiding core elements to protect privacy, especially in NCC Group’s client facing areas, incorporating acoustic treatment measures including slab-to-slab and staggered stud wall construction alongside acoustic wall, floor and ceiling treatments.
‘A key innovation from us was to hide security features in plain sight, which has turned the HQ into a live demonstrator of NCC Group’s capabilities,’ Andrew explains.
‘Our stance towards cyber security is reflected in our office,’ Brian adds. ‘Some of the security we’ve got around the building has been done in such a way that it doesn’t feel like security. When we’re explaining risk mitigation and cyber strategy to our visitors and clients, we can actually point out parts of this office – which really makes what we do come alive.’
Another of the key aspects to the scheme can be found in the centre of the space, where we find two serviced breakout areas for each wing, collaboration booths and relaxation/entertaining spaces.
‘The position of the breakout spaces within the floorplate is intended to essentially bring different departments and teams together, not just over lunch but throughout the day – taking the strain away from the use of meeting rooms and also helping to promote cross-departmental collaboration.’
‘The physical environment created for us by OBI Property is changing how people act, which is awesome for us as a business because people are not just enjoying the space but they are using it in different ways,’ Brian tells us, ‘Some of that’s about sharing, some of that’s about collaborating in these open, informal workspaces.
‘The building, to me, has a really good blend of spaces that are as professional and as serious and as focused as you could possibly imagine – people imagine that we are serious people and a grown-up company – but we also have spaces that are incredibly informal, where people can kick back, be laid back and actually relax and chill out.’
OBI Property and NCC Group collaborated to select the finishes, fixtures and furniture to encourage staff to integrate, collaborate and socialise, as well as improve productivity.
It was also important to impress upon staff, clients and visitors alike the global reach of NCC Group and its corporate clout. This is a successful, growing, global Mancunian business – and the workspace reflects this.
‘The aesthetic quality and resilience was key to the selection of finishes and materials,’ Andrew considers, ‘We wanted to reinforce NCC’s solid, trustworthy brand and also make it easy to maintain the condition of the office over the long period that NCC Group will be in occupation.’
There is no doubt that this new HQ has set a determined marker for the future of NCC Group, not just at its Manchester roots but across the world – and it’s already made a hugely positive impact on the business and its people.
‘One of the fascinating things I’ve witnessed – and we’ve obviously changed the physical environment here – is where and how they come to work but also how it is changing the way that people act, which is awesome for us as a business because people are not just enjoying the space but they are using it in different ways,’ Brian tells us.
‘Just seeing that different attitude in staff coming to work and the changes that it’s having on them is amazing. It’s not just that this is a different space, it’s actually influencing our people and how we work here.’