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By way of an introduction to our annual Public Sector Report, we asked Alexandra Houghton, Head of Consultancy & Strategy (Partner), at leading multi-disciplinary property partnership, Carter Jonas, to tell us about the key issues currently facing the public sector. 

“Workplace transformation in the public sector is primarily driven by cost pressure – the colocation of departments, local authorities and other public bodies is encouraged in order to reduce the need for office space. As a result, the government has sold over 1,000 properties since 2014. Although financial savings are the main driver, the initiative also has the benefit of improving workplaces for staff, and positive impacts on efficiencies, retention and recruitment, although this can take some getting used to for the staff. 

There are other ways cost pressure is impacting government real estate. Looking ahead, the government plans to condense workspace further, by reducing from 86 sq ft to 65 sq ft allocated per employee. It is also relocating elements of the workforce outside of London in order to capitalise on lower rents – for example, the HS2 headquarters in Birmingham. 

However, the public sector also needs to consider other factors, including the accessibility to skills and workforce, and the wider business case for remaining in the capital – such as proximity to stakeholders, as is afforded by a Whitehall location.”



Completion Date: September 2018 | Location: Covent Garden, London

Respondent: Stanton Williams – architects on the Royal Opera House Open Up project.

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? Architects.

Who was the key person/people from your organisation? Alan Stanton (Director), Paul Williams (Director), Rawden Pettitt (Associate Director), Tom Shell (Associate).

Who was the key person/people from the client side? Alex Beard (Chief Executive, Royal Opera House) and Sarah Younger (Open Up Project Director).

What were the key objectives set by the client? To create a world class second theatre for the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet alongside the historic auditorium; to create new facilities and spaces to enhance the experience for audiences around performances in both theatres and to invite a new daytime audience to connect with the extraordinary world of ballet and opera, often for the first time. The client was keen that, at all times of the day, the Royal Opera House building should be a place to glimpse the remarkable forces at play behind the scenes; a place to relax and have a coffee, lunch or a drink in the midst of the one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses, a place to see artists at work and a place to showcase its guiding principles of excellence, theatricality and curiosity.

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? Carving out the new spaces posed considerable design and engineering challenges as the Opera House remained operational throughout the three-year construction period, with construction going on around 996 uninterrupted performances. 

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element? The Linbury has been transformed from a cramped and uncomfortable studio theatre into a state-of-the-art artistic laboratory, making the Royal Opera House the only one of the five great opera houses in the world with a second house.

Client Comments

By night the Linbury Theatre comes alive with performances to match the quality of the world-renowned main stage. This flexible space has already been the setting for a film festival, numerous ballet and opera shows – with all performances selling out with the theatre space receiving plaudits to match performances. During the day the refurbished foyers and terraces are now a bustling, vibrant space filled with the curious, the casual visitor and cultural enthusiasts.’



Name of Government Department: Ministry of Justice Completion Date: August 2018 | Location: Canary Wharf

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? iDEA was the Lead Designer. This is one of four MoJ National HQ Projects that formed part of a wider remit to deliver the MoJ National vision and consolidate its estate.

Who was the key person/people from your organisation? Design team: Chris Ager, Harry Collett and Charlie Hayes.

Who was the key person/people from the client side? Andy Mills and Ian Pearce.

What were the key objectives set by the client? We have been working alongside the Ministry of Justice to refresh and improve the working environments at four headquarters buildings in London and Leeds. This has been core to the MoJ National programme to deliver Smarter Working and a more streamlined, effective estate.

We developed a complete Workplace Design Guide in collaboration with the MoJ estates team, which could be applied to all MoJ sites, including satellite offices. The guidelines comprise work settings, furniture, graphics and manifestations, fabrics, finishes and wayfinding iconography. This delivers consistency between each site and provides a menu to tailor and scale the impact relevant to location.

10 South Colonnade is part of the Government Property Agency Hubs programme. MoJ occupies the 3rd floor in an agile space that supports transient staff working between 10SC and their flagship building in 102 Petty France.

Our main objectives: 

To re-use but refresh as many of the existing facilities as possible, from teapoint locations to meeting rooms. The design guidelines could then be applied to existing core elements to save on cost.

To provide an office landscape that reflected the values of the MoJ Smarter Working programme, and supported the on-going cultural shift across the organisation that has seen them dramatically reduce their office footprint over the last two years.

To ensure a consistent aesthetic and create a benchmark for implementation of the new MoJ identity across the whole of their estate.

To create a vibrant workspace, striking the correct balance between muted desk areas and colourful support settings.

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? 

Ensuring the design catered for the array of teams that relocated to Canary Wharf from Westminster and capturing any special requirements the teams had within our design proposal.

Capturing the variety of team identities without creating a ‘mishmash’ of branding across an open plan floor.

To create an environment that promoted visibility between teams and encouraged sharing of settings and cross-disciplinary interaction.

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element? The culmination of effort from the Smarter Working programme, the MoJ Estates team and our designers to deliver an agile space that reflects MoJ values and delivers more efficient serviceable office space. It has provided the client with an opportunity to showcase its new identity and design guidelines on a large scale across one large floorplate, setting a national standard and benchmark for all of its future projects. 

Client Comments

Mike Driver, the MoJ’s CFO, has commented on the success of the 10SC project at the vanguard of the MoJ’s exciting new transformational programme. The work continues successfully in its HQ building at 102 Petty France.

Build Partners

Landlord GPA

Contractor Overbury

Architect Aecom

Project Manager BNP Paribas

Furniture Senator

Flooring Carpet – Milliken Vinyl – Shaw Contract

Lighting Icons of Denmark



Name of Government Department: Department of Education Completion Date: March 2018 | Location: London

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? Spacelab carried out in-depth research, developed the workplace and design strategy, and acted as the interior designers and architects on the project. Based on the outcomes of our research, we have completely transformed the previously dark and underused space on the lower ground floor, into a light, welcoming and modern workspace that fully supports ‘activity based working’ and reflects the building’s rich history in every detail.

What were the key objectives set by the client? The University of London was looking to re-envisage the function of its home in the Grade II listed Senate House, and turned to Spacelab to formulate the design strategy. The brief was to consolidate non-teaching teams from across the organisation (over 250 staff) into one space within the lower ground floor – an underutilised space previously used for storage. The project represents a milestone in the development and use of Senate House as an academic hub for the university and its member institutions.

The key objective was to create a unified and future-proof space that would facilitate ‘activity based working’, to provide choice, and increase productivity, knowledge transfer and collaboration within and between teams.

The new space also needed to work in harmony with the existing fabric of the historic Senate House, maintaining the integrity of the building to ensure it met the strict requirements of English Heritage.

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? Previously teams were segregated across the campus, with no sense of ‘togetherness’ and nothing connecting them together. One of the key aims of the project was to bring all the teams together into one space, helping to increase productivity, knowledge transfer and collaboration within and between teams, as well as creating a sense of community. To achieve this, and help the shift towards agile working, we engaged with the teams throughout the process, involving them in the design as well as helping them to rethink their traditional behaviour patterns and siloed working. 

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element? We used our unique spatial analysis tool to bring to light the current – and potential – spatial qualities of different areas of the lower ground floor. From this we identified an opportunity to open up and transform the external, non-utilised courtyard into the buzzing heart of the workplace, feeding into and connecting the surrounding spaces. A faceted structural glass roof covers the courtyard – snaking its way from one side to the other and making a key architectural statement, which is visible from all floors of the building, seamlessly marrying the historic building with this modern intervention. 

Build Partners

M&E Consultants Energylab

Structural Glazing Cantifix

Contractors Collins Constructions

Structural Engineer Symmetry’s



Name of Government Department: NHS | Completion Date: August 2018 

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? HKS Architects were architect, lead designer and lead consultant.

Who was the key person/people from your organisation? Franko Covington – Lead Designer, Jessica Karsten – Project Architect.

Who was the key person/people from the client side? Jason Dawson – Head of Capital and Estates, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

What were the key objectives set by the client? To design and deliver a first-of-its-kind facility for the UK, implementing some of the most advanced technology applied to healthcare. To create an environment that nurtures patients’ health, both through the intended clinical functions and also through the architecture and interior design of the facility.

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? Reducing patient anxiety of the potentially intimidating treatment process by creating an environment that facilitates human social norms. As patients will be treated for a period of up to eight weeks, five days a week, we wanted to create an environment where patients could interact socially. The main waiting space is centred around a kitchen/café to assist in this natural human tendency to share one’s experiences in a comfortable environment.

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element? Much of the facility is housed in a bunker – therefore being able to bring natural daylight into the space was a huge challenge. The benefits of daylight to both patients and staff is immense in a cancer treatment facility and so, through careful placement of the spaces, no office or public space is without ample daylight.

Build Partners

Main Contractor Interserve Construction

Structures and MEP Arup

Art Consultants Acrylicize

Suppliers Domus, Green Furniture Concept, Senator Group



Name of Government Department: Government Property Agency Completion Date: July 2018 | Location: London

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? AECOM provided Workplace Strategy, Interior Design, MEPH and Cost Management services for all RIBA Stages, this also included full-time site presence during the construction phase.

Who was the key person/people from your organisation? Terry Gunnery, Mike Kinney, Paul Latham, Ron Patel, Martin Kellett, Laura Usher, Mariko Raouf, Atepheh Amid, Rory Haughian, Rob Baker, Illan Santos, Sam Wrangles.

What were the key objectives set by the client? This project realises the key objective of the Government’s new estates transformation programme, which is the delivery of agile working multi-department ‘Hubs’, and is an exemplar of the modernisation of the civil service and the successful upcycling of an existing building. It is a very big idea indeed – a national ‘smarter working’ revolution, and a transformation of how and where civil servants work. 

A key objective and challenge is doing more with less – a shift from a complex and expensive estate to a shared and flexible model. Moving from Westminster to Canary Wharf has realised enormous savings.

When choosing a location for the first Government Hub it was very important for staff to be able to have good access to public transport. Canary Wharf was the perfectly connected space, and GPA further supported staff by enhancing cyclist facilities and initiatives, to encourage low carbon transport options. This also represents a major contributor to wider Government objectives, such as localism, sustainability and reducing pressure on the transport system.

Another key objective was to support Government HR attraction and retention strategies; employee wellbeing is central to the GPA vision – people’s experience of work was central to the process and to the solution. 

Best-in-class working environment has increased staff morale, retention and is attracting new employees through its flexible and stimulating workscape, including the array of amenity spaces GPA and the eight Government Departments have embraced smart working – the floor layouts provide multiple spaces to work depending upon the task, giving staff greater choice over how and where they work. 

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? The biggest cultural challenge was bringing eight different Government departments together and providing individual departmental design/brand expression, whilst maintaining a set of design standards and overall consistency.

The biggest design challenge was producing a cohesive interior architecture for the whole building, and making use of the very large, very deep windowless spaces on the former banking dealer floors, from their previous use on levels 1 and 2. These spaces are now very well used as a conference suite on level 1 and restaurant café/club lounge on level 2.

Client Comments:

‘It’s great to see public and private sector staff rubbing shoulders here in Canary Wharf. This hub is one of 14 across the country already announced, which will use cutting-edge design and innovative technology to deliver smarter public services that reduce vacant space across the Government Estate.’ – Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation 

‘More than 2,000 of our London-based people are already benefiting from the facilities the Hub has to offer, including modern, flexible workspaces with great IT and excellent transport links. Bringing our teams from across London together in Canary Wharf is already showing the benefits of collaboration and modern ways of working.’ – Steven Boyd, HMRC’s Estates Director

Build Partners

Real Estate PM BNP Paribas

Main Contractor Overbury

Furniture Senator

Carpets Milliken

Lighting Icons of Denmark

Tiles Domus

Partitions Optima



Completion Date: January 2019 | Location: Taunton, Somerset

What part did you play in delivering the scheme? Architecture and landscape design was by AHR. Interior design was by AHR and Steer Design. 

Who was the key person/people from your organisation? Adam Spall, Regional Director, AHR.

Who was the key person/people from the client side? Jo Funnell, UK Hydrographic Office.

What were the key objectives set by the client? The client brief was to encourage a ‘one team’ culture, create a sense of collaboration and openness in the workplace and increase staff retention through a focus on wellbeing.

UKHO required a robust, futureproof approach to sustainability in support of its environmental commitments, including BREEAM Excellent. The new HQ required a sense of scale and grandness reflective of the UK Hydrographic Office’s status as a world-leading geospatial information company.

What was the biggest design/cultural challenge? The building supports a cultural shift within UKHO’s ways of working towards a more open plan, collaborative environment.

Our design prioritised collaborative and agile workspaces. The interior design strategy provides a gradient of activity types with breakout and social spaces within the atrium, collaborative and agile workspaces around the balcony edges and individual desking towards the perimeter.

Open balconies and bridges create physical and visual connection between all parts of the building, with the central atrium’s generous staircases leading to wide bridges, providing access to two symmetrical wings. 

Importantly, the occupants are encouraged to engage with the atrium as they move around the building, providing stimulation and creating encounters between colleagues. 

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element? Our design has created a workplace that is far more conducive to new ways of working. The environment places significance on increasing the ability of staff to work collaboratively and provide them with choice, all within a healthy environment that heightens productivity. Importantly, our design encourages the ‘one team’ culture within a building that is responsive and caters for everyone’s needs.

The workplace transformational elements throughout have stemmed from the design team’s ethos to aspire to a very high level of specification in all areas, and to always exceed the ‘minimum standard’ to ensure that the building meets the organisation’s needs far into the future.

The results of this ethos are evident, with the building providing outstanding levels of natural daylight, exceptional acoustic control, an impressive sense of openness and remarkable level of connectivity for such a large facility. Employee wellbeing is prioritised throughout, within a highly sustainable, low energy building.

Client Comments:

‘I am delighted with the outcome of the project and the standard of the building. The collaboration between all parties has been the key to the project’s success. The new environment will support smarter ways of working, using new technology and modern office practices, which is hugely exciting for our business. The design and quality of the building is something we can all be very proud of having delivered in Taunton.’ – Jo Funnell, New Build Project Manager, UK Hydrographic Office.