Area designs wellbeing-focused office for IFS
When global enterprise software company IFS relocated its UK headquarters to Staines-Upon-Thames, a workplace design that puts both clients and employees at the heart of the solution was required.
In business terms at least, Cambridge is red hot right now. We’re here to see Scott Brownrigg’s incredible 200,000 sq ft project for arm technologies.
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From providing the IP for the chip to delivering the Cloud services that allow organisations to securely manage the deployment of products throughout their lifecycle, arm delivers a complete Internet of Things (IoT) solution for its partners and customers.
Our guides for our tour of the space are Scott Brownrigg Directors Ed Hayden and Beatriz Gonzalez. Heading out of the centre of Cambridge, we soon reach the leafy, attractive business park that it rapidly becoming the arm campus with, as Ed tells us, the original HQ building to our left, plans for a further building to the right and the impressive new HQ facility right in front of us.
‘The building itself is only two stories tall – and that’s really to lessen the impact on the residential properties, which are all around here,’ Ed points out as we stand and admire the new structure. ‘As you enter the park, you really can’t see the building even though its is 200, 000 sq ft.
‘The whole building is wrapped in this brise soleil, which is based on the structure of silicon – the science behind integrated circuits. When an electron beam strikes crystalline silicon it produces a pattern of intersecting ‘Kikuchi’ bands. This pattern is incorporated throughout the building and every aspect of the project.’
We’re told that the silicon structure has been used to inform the design of every detail of the building, from the external appearance of the shading fins, through to the atrium soffits and interior design, down to the bespoke door handles. The design wraps the building in a delicate lattice of aluminium – diffusing the light, reducing energy loads and responding to the passage of the sun.
‘The building is split into two halves – arm A and arm B – with the reception and atrium creating this central element. The idea is that, even from outside, you can see straight through the building to the landscape beyond. You never feel as though you are disconnected from nature.’
It’s so important that people aren’t struggling to focus and that we have this incredible variety of working and meeting spaces available to everyone
We head into the incredible, buzzy atrium, where we are joined by arm’s Ellie Lamberti, who tells us about the origins of the project. ‘The whole process was quite a new thing for us. We’d previously only really done refurbishment projects rather than to start from scratch with an entire new building. It’s been a very exciting process. We worked closely with Ed, looking at how we were working and how this could and would affect all our people here in Cambridge.
The idea is that, even from outside, you can see straight through the building to the landscape beyond. You never feel as though you are disconnected from nature.
‘We were previously in a number of other buildings on this site and throughout Cambridge. We’d become really fragmented as a business. The main driver, therefore, was to bring everybody back together. Unfortunately, that hasn’t completely worked out as, while this project was underway, the business was acquired and we continued to grow, and therefore cannot fit into just the one building! Hence, we are already looking at the next phase of the campus.
‘We looked at how we wanted everyone to work together. One of the big drivers for this building was to use these social spaces to foster those impromptu conversations – I really believe that these are things that can drive our business. When everyone is within individual teams and people are tucked away and separate, we know that some of those great brainwave moments aren’t happening. So the whole design of the building encourages people to come into these great atrium spaces, pushes them together to really drive those conversations. We were able to see this happening from the very first day. These were the things that had stopped happening when we were so fragmented, and to have all these teams together is hugely beneficial.
‘We’ve always had a genuine space problem in the past – these social spaces were a luxury we just haven’t had. Even our meeting rooms had started to be turned into office space. What we do know here is that the design of this atrium space can never be turned into office space – not that we’d want to! This will really keep us on the right track and allows people to interact in a way they’ve not be able to previously. It really does drive everyone together. On that first day, we saw one or two people sat on one of the long tables – but almost instantly people started coming together and chatting and eating with each other.’
Each ‘arm’ of the building provides high quality food and beverage offerings, together with a variety of communal social settings. What Ed and the design team have done here is really smart. Once beyond the reception (and first layer of security), there is a great, open feel to the space, with amazing transparency throughout, despite the almost invisible second level of security, necessary for the working spaces, of course. ‘We have the central collaboration space – the street, if you like,’ Ed tells us, ‘but all of the spaces beyond are actually quite cellular. Everyone here tends to work in small groups and small teams. Focused working space was key here.
‘The atrium is column-free. There is a giant screen that can be dropped into this space so that the CEO can address all 3,500 employees, with people stood in the atrium or lining the balconies. ‘Beyond this we have a bank of teapoints in each of the wings, then we have the lightwells – which are about free and easy working space and informal meetings – and beyond these we have what we call the diamond spaces, which are the huddle spaces for breakout working and semi-formal meetings.’
We notice the silicon theme is continued through to elements such as the smart manifestations on formal meeting rooms, which also allow for another level of openness and transparency. ‘It’s so important that people aren’t struggling to focus and that we have this incredible variety of working and meeting spaces available to everyone,’ Ellie enthuses.
Beatriz tells us that an awful lot of attention was given to wellbeing and neurodiversity issues, pointing out simple yet effective elements such as pushplates on doors rather than ‘pull’ handles (of course referencing silicon once more). Indeed, arm now provides a variety of impressive facilities for its people, including an on-site physiotherapist, retreat rooms and recreation points. ‘We do have a lot of neurodiversity and we were really keen to look after this and provide the right facilities,’ Ellie says. ‘This has made a huge impact. We want our people to feel wanted, we have a lot of social activities and if people want to stay late or come in over the weekend they are free to do so. We want people to use the space as they feel they need to. It’s about their wellness.’
‘I think it’s really interesting to see an organisation move towards this way of thinking and allowing these spaces and facilities to be given to the social aspect rather than just work,’ Beatriz adds.
‘We needed this building to provide us with all of this,’ Ellie concludes. ‘And it really does!’
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