Public Knowledge

Many cads may think recruiting for the public sector is easy. With pensions, flexible hours and perhaps a less high-octane commercial pace, it should be easy, shouldn’t it? Furthermore, the public sector is clearly appreciating the need to attract and retain staff in much the same way as the private sector and they are using Workplace Transformation as a key tool, so what are they doing about it? We have gathered some great recent examples of public sector (we appreciate the housing trusts and HE are funded differently) that illustrate some amazing designs, which are comparable with the best in the private sector. When we heard that one Government department stated, ‘We want a workplace like the private sector’, we knew that the trend hadwell and truly started.
Here is some context: the public sector is a big beast – there are 5.35 million people employed. As a comparison, there are 26.9 million in the private sector. As you would expect the proportion public sector varies across the regions, for example 15% in London, through to 25% in Northern Ireland.


HMRC-picName of Government department: HMRC
Name of project: HM Government, 1 Ruskin Sq.
Completed: July 2017
Location: 1 Ruskin Square, Croydon

What part did AECOM play:
AECOM were; Workplace Strategy/Briefing, Interior Design, M&E, IT, Security, Acoustic, Graphics, Sustainability Consultants.

Key people from AECOM:
Terry Gunnery (AECOM) – Director of Design for HMRC, Jason Stubbs (AECOM) – Director of Design for D&B Contractor. Also, David Bailey, Dawn-Marie Andrews, Sharon Bacha.

Key people Government/HMRC:
Frazer Smith – Deputy Director Estates Transformation, Peter Grant – Director Estates Transformation. Also, Mariko Raouf, Eleni Kalaitzidi, Steve White, Illan Santos. Project manager – Turner and Townsend, who were also cost managers.

Key objective set by the Government/HMRC:

  • The Locations Programme is the cornerstone of departmental transformation
  • It places HMRC at the forefront of the Government Hubs agenda
  • Migrates 160 traditional offices to 13 regional centres and five specialist sites over five years
  • Supports the implementation of Smart Working

Change Drivers:

  • Aging workforce
  • Financial pressure to work smarter and deliver more for less
  • Changing and increasing customer expectations
  • Digitisation


  • Collaborative working with Government Property Agency on Employer Requirements, Design and FF&E Guide
  • City centre sites with excellent public transport links and environmental performance
  • To create inclusive workplaces, accessible to all
  • Ongoing conversation with HMRC staff since 2015 on locations, facilities and new ways of working

Our Workplace:
Breaking the anchors of the traditional desk to gain full use of the Regional Centre

Core – Facilities that enable the bulk of routine work with HMRC systems and customers

Collaborate – Versatile spaces where we meet and work together, either in person or remotely

Concentrate – Space in which we can study, concentrate, consider and work with complex or sensitive information

Learn – Flexible space supporting group learning, syndicate, e-learning and self-study

Access – Spaces through which staff, visitors and materials enter and exit the office

Amenity – A variety of non-directly work-related spaces for people to meet and relax, including places to eat and drink, plus other services


  • A bold and exciting journey, unprecedented across Government
  • Fit-for-purpose workspaces that maximise collaboration, efficiency, technology and innovation
  • A win/win result that improves customer service, reduces the cost burden for taxpayers and creates a great place to work that attracts and retains staff
    Can you sum up the greatest transformational element?
  • This project is a very bright, game-changing, creative start of the Government’s new estates strategy and an exemplar of the modernisation of the civil service. It is a very big idea indeed – a national ‘smarter working’ revolution, and the transformation of how and where civil servants work.
  • Meeting the central challenge of doing more with less – a shift from a complex and expensive estate to a shared and flexible model – sharing space and working together supports improved productivity and saves money. This also represents a major contributor to wider Government objectives, such as localism, sustainability and reducing pressure on the transport system.
  • Ultimately, this project has begun the journey of using a high quality physical environment as leverage for change in HMRC – people, process and place all supporting each other, realised in an ‘industrial chic’ environment, designed for the people who use it.
  • The interior design master-planning and the support function stack of 1 Ruskin Square has been carefully considered to respect and maximise the building’s attributes, architectural features and services design.
  • One of HMRC’s internal communication initiatives is ‘A National Conversation’, bringing staff on the journey of this major transformation – how HMRC are ‘Building our Future’. This project showcases the importance of the national roll-out – regional places and site localities – and the brand expression can be summed up as ‘a national conversation with regional accents’, with a focus on ‘people and places’ throughout the centre.

Comments from the client
‘HMRC has commenced one of the largest estate transformations in Europe and is at the forefront of the Government Hubs Programme. Our new Regional Centre at 1 Ruskin Square, Croydon, is the first of 13 to be established across the UK. Regional Centres will offer value to the taxpayer through reduced running costs, improve operational effectiveness through new technology and ways of working and create a great place to work for our people.
We built a terrific working relationship with AECOM in designing every aspect of our new workspaces, from reception to core work areas, conference and learning facilities to quiet concentrate space. Together we have created a truly flexible office that our people love and that supports them to be the best they can be. We’ve placed particular emphasis on making the new design accessible to all.
We are convinced our new Regional Centres will help us attract and retain the quality staff we need as the UK’s tax authority and look forward to working with AECOM on our next batch of projects in Belfast, Bristol and Liverpool.’
Peter Grant, Director, Estates Transformation

Timescale of build: 12th December 2016 – 10th July 2017

Build partners on the scheme: Contractor – COMO, Developer – Stanhope

Next stage? National roll-out


TFL-picName of Government department: Transport for London
Name of project: New accommodation hub at Stratford
Completed: 29th September 2017
Location: 5 Endeavour Square, Stratford, London, E20 1JN

What part did tp bennett play?
Accommodation Strategy Manager and Cat C fit-out subject matter expert

Key project team:
Paul Doyle, Project Director, Projects and Accommodation, Commercial Development, TfL. Tim Edmunds, Project Manager, Director, BNP Paribas Real Estate UK
Key objective set by the Government: This project has been part of an on-going accommodation strategy (12 years) to bring a large proportion of the TfL Head Office estate into three large hubs. These are Palestra, Southwark, London SE1 at 3,000 desks, Pier Walk, North Greenwich, London SE10 at 1,800 desks and lastly 5 Endeavour Square at 2,800 desks. A large number of moves was undertaken to facilitate, with around 9,000 staff moved.
This has allowed a rationalisation of the wider estate, releasing two leasehold buildings and subsequent savings. We have also taken the opportunity to create a new contemporary workplace and new furniture, such as sit-stand desks and large team tables and open plan and enclosed collaboration spaces.
Foremost in the interior design and furniture selection is health and wellbeing and the opportunity for easy access to large green spaces – all of which creates an attractive workplace, fit for the future, and attractive to current and prospective staff.

What was the greatest challenge?
There were many challenges, but the greatest was the ‘move in’ date, which was immovable due to a lease-end on a property at Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, which had to be handed back to the landlord at the end of October 2017 or would have cost a significant amount to continue in occupation post this date.

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element?
The greatest transformational element was to create a workplace that was fully adaptable to the needs of the business and third party partner organisations and ensure that all moves were seamless so as to not affect major engineering transformational projects across the TfL network.
Timescale of build: August 14 – December 17

Build partners on the scheme:

  • Lend Lease Development
  • Lend Lease Construction
  • BNP Paribas Real Estate UK – Project


  • tp bennett – Cat B Architects
  • Hoare Lee – M&E
  • Hennessy Godden – Monitoring QS
  • PRS – Monitoring Architects

Next stage?
TfL will undertake a time utilisation study to see how well the building is occupied and thereby increase density to 7:10. We will also carry out a Post Occupancy Evaluation to understand if both the building and its facilities are working for staff.


Peaks&Plains-picName of Government department: Housing association
Name of project: Peaks and Plains Housing Trust
Completed: November 2017
Location: Macclesfield, Cheshire

What part did BAND Architects play?
We re-designed the space to free up 1,000 sq m of lettable office space, the income from which funded the fit-out project and will also help fund future Trust housing projects. This model, using rental income, is a first for any public sector landlord.
The working environment is entirely different to anything delivered before by a Housing Trust, and the financial model has created an entirely cost-neutral, dynamic new home for the Trust.
The overarching design principle was to build the office environment around a central beating heart space – a kitchen and lounge area where people come together, just as they do in the home.
BAND Architect’s re-imagined workspace has entirely changed the way the Trust engages with staff and customers, while protecting the fabric of the historic mill.
The entire operation has been consolidated on one floor in a bright, open layout, which connects employees and brings domestic and urban design ideas into the workplace.

Key person from your organisation:
The project was delivered by BAND’s two Directors, David Wilcock and Paul Healey-Jones.

Key objective set by the Government:
The Trust invited BAND Architects to re-imagine its workspace to reflect its progression as an organisation, and to create a more efficient, healthy office environment – one better suited and equipped to meet the needs of its employees – and to support the continued improvement of the Trust’s services. The project was to be delivered on a cost-neutral basis.
What was the greatest challenge?
As its funding was directly related to the innovation of the planning and design of the project, costs could not be fully defined until a late stage.
Balancing aspiration v available budget became a focal point for innovation. As an example, efficiencies in the layout of the floor would lead directly to more available spend within the project. This manifested in less core desk spaces, more sharing and use of the flexible areas for core working space. This efficiency, combined with tightening of the specification and scope of the project, helped to maintain the vision without compromising the budget.

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element?
The entire operation has now been consolidated on just one floor in an innovative space, which naturally brings employees together by incorporating domestic and urban design ideas in the workplace.
The redesign solution has worked so well that the Trust is about to lease the ground floor, meaning it has reduced its use of the building by 63%. The scheme has been cost-neutral to the organisation in delivering a dynamic new home – one that reflects the direction of the Trust and fosters a new sense of purpose and community in its staff.
By reducing its footprint, the Trust has created a valuable asset in the form of lettable spaces within the building. These have helped fund the fit-out project and will also contribute funds to the Trust into the future. Improvements made to the internal space have inspired current and prospective tenants to undertake similar fit-out schemes. These will continue to improve the quality of the whole building, making it a significant commercial asset and a highly desirable place to work.

Comments from the client:
‘In the boardroom there is one wall with a large image, from a local photographer, of a group of women who appear to be utterly contented with their lives. It’s there as a reminder of why we are here. BAND Architect’s transformation and fit out of Ropewalks echoes that same message: ‘Be empowered to make change for the better in people’s lives.’
Tim Pinder, CEO, Peaks & Plains Housing Trust

Timescale of build:
Work commenced in June 2017 and completed in November 2017

Build partners on the scheme:
The project was procured under a traditional JCT Intermediate contract, with a full design developed by the client design team. Specialist fit-out contractors Brown and Bancroft were selected in May 2017.

Next stage?
The project is now complete but we are working with the client during the next 12 months to gather feedback and evaluate the scheme in use.


Home-Office-picName of Government department; Home Office
Name of project; Lunar and Apollo House
Completed when; December 2017
Location; Croydon

What part did iDEA play?
We were the briefing consultant, space planners and interior designers for all 42 floors of both Lunar and Apollo buildings, which included the receptions, a café and a restaurant. The objective of the project was to increase building capacity and flexibility to support the Home Office Smarter Working programme. The project has seen the capacity of both buildings increase from 3,000 to 5,000.

Key person from your organisation:
At iDEA it is always a team effort, however James Elgar led the design development and challenged the client in terms of the Smarter Working influence on work settings. James had support from strategy and design colleagues with both materials and finishes and site support through to completion.
Key objective set by the Government:
The Croydon project was key to the Home Office Smarter Working programme and an integral part of the pan-Whitehall regionalisation work to reduce the costly central London footprint. It also serves to form flexible hub/touchdown workspace for a wide variety of Home Office staff.

What was the greatest challenge?
The biggest challenge was to move the café from the 1st Floor of Apollo House, up to the 3rd Floor. In Apollo House the existing cafe was in an awkward position, difficult to find and poorly signposted. The decision was made at Director level to relocate the existing 1st floor Café to the 3rd floor Podium space. The area has a vaulted ceiling with inlaid glass brick and has real ‘wow factor’. This is an excellent place to create a destination, meeting place and working café but the logistics and physical constraints were difficult.

Can you sum up the greatest transformational element?
The concept for each floor has an arrival point that forms the hub, comprising a business lounge and a variety of settings for visiting staff to touchdown or hold informal meetings with colleagues. The hub contains a tea point, print facilities and lockers.
From the hub to the wings of the building, the space becomes a mix of traditional 1,200mm desks and team benches with the addition of other informal meeting and breakout spaces. Towards the end of the wings, in the quieter spaces, are meeting rooms, individual pods and library areas.
The increased headcount will put pressure on each floor and a 7:10 working ratio is envisaged. Adequate IT provision, Wi-Fi network and power were essential.

Comments from the client:
‘The space looks great and I can’t wait to try it out!’
Mike Parsons – Director General Capabilities & Resources (at the time of completion) and key client sponsor.

Timescale of build:
Six months briefing and designing the scheme, one year start to finish for the build.

Build partners on the scheme:
Paragon were the main contractors on this project, starting towards the end of 2016 and on site in January 2017. It was quite a challenging programme for them to manage as it was an occupied building with only single floors available to complete at the beginning. Further in to the programme, the increased efficiency of the floors created more swing space as teams moved in to newly refurbished areas that meant multiple floors could be delivered concurrently.

Next stage?
We continued to work with the Home Office and the MoJ in other locations in Croydon and in Central London. We are also working with other Government departments in Whitehall and nationally, delivering similar Smarter Working initiatives aligned with Cabinet Office objectives.
We continue to work on Old Admiralty Building, which will be the new location for the Department for Education.