For some time I have been, on what feels like a lonely
crusade, evangelising about the need to design workplaces that focus on
recognising psychological [1] factors and enhancing individual performance [2],
rather than simply concerned with saving space. I was beginning to think that I
would never find an occupier who truly understood how their offices could be
used to facilitate and improve their business rather than treat it as a cost
burden that should be avoided. However, my recent visit to Lend Lease’s Regents
Place offices (as part of the Workplace Trends tours) has
restored my faith in common (business) sense.

Just entering the shared atrium in their
multi-tenanted building gives a tantalising insight into what lies in store in
Lend Lease’s office. Facing me was a large art installation constructed from
red and gold coloured mirrors which subtly reflect the surrounding office
spaces. Despite the red mirrors, the greenness (in both colour and planting) of
Lend Lease’s offices is evident.

Although, the sceptic may consider the planting (some
3,800 plants) a gimmick, Lend Lease maintain that the plants are there for good
reasons – predominantly that of improving productivity. Lend Lease unearthed
research showing that plants improve air quality which in turn has been shown,
in other studies, to improve performance. But contradictory research has
suggested that for plants to have a positive effect on air quality in offices,
it would require a rain-forest-load of plants – whilst there is an abundance of
plants they are nonetheless not a rain forest. However, it cannot be denied
that, despite being an Australian company, Lend Lease have in England created a
green and pleasant land, which will appeal to our innate affinity to greenery,
termed biophelia, and have a positive effect on occupant satisfaction , motivation,
and performance (all bar the odd hay fever sufferer). Furthermore, Lend Lease
has found that the healthiness of the plants is an indicator of the air quality
– so perhaps plants are the canaries of the office world.

If Lend Lease do clearly demonstrate that their
enhanced air quality does increase productivity they will not be able to claim
it is due to the planting alone. That is because they have also doubled the
fresh air supply rate, compared to British standards. Although this will
increase energy (and carbon) costs, as they are not recycling treated air, Lend
Lease firmly believe the productivity benefits make it all worthwhile. I
actually admire their commitment for investing in their workplace based on
productivity research findings and for putting people (and, let’s not forget,
business) above cost reduction. Perhaps the combined plants and increased fresh
air is a case of “belt and braces” – I will leave the reader to
decide if that is wasteful or just a good low risk strategy.

Lend Lease, like everyone else, have opted for a bench
desk system but the workplace nevertheless still feels spacious. I think this
mainly due to a mixture of generous primary and secondary circulation space (to
facilitate mingling). In addition, the adjacent nicely designed, cosy,
comfortable and ample quiet and informal meeting spaces all help break up the
desking. I found the space simply a delight to walkthrough and can imagine
myself comfortable and happy in this place.

Furthermore, there are well provided breakout and
coffee areas on each floor. Like Macquarie Bank, these areas are stocked with
good quality beverages and free toast and free porridge. Clearly Australians
are grazers; but regardless of antipodean eating habits these areas literally
cater for evolutionary psychological needs and thus create an attractive reason
for meeting and socialising with colleagues – which in turn builds trust and in
turn facilitates collaboration. The low-GI porridge is aimed at increasing
energy levels.

The meeting rooms all seemed well space planned with
good AV to facilitate productive meetings [3] and reduce the need for printing.
Special attention has been paid to the daylight and electric lighting throughout
the building – again acknowledging evolutionary psychological needs and
productivity research findings.

So have I finally found a workplace where the property
team understands the primary reason for offices is to facilitate the occupying
business and maximise performance? Well possibly, but I have only walked
through the space; my preference is to wait for the results of the post occupancy
evaluation [4] as it is the occupants who are best placed to say how we’ll the
space works for them.

1. Oseland N A (2009) The impact
of psychological needs on office design
. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 11 (4),
244-254.

2. Oseland
N A and Burton A (2012) Quantifying
the impact of environmental
conditions
on worker
performance
for inputting to a business case
. Journal of Building Survey, Appraisal and Valuation, 1 (2).

3. Oseland
N A et al (2011) Environments
for successful interaction
. Facilities, 29 (1/2), 50-62.

4. Oseland N A (2006) The
BCO Guide to POE
. London: British Council for Offices.