Workplace webinar: Designing healthy and desirable places to work – ADC

An AT webinar, supported by Geberit and Oscar Acoustics, explored the post-covid workplace and what can be done to maximise health and wellbeing.

Since Covid restrictions eased, UK workers have been going into the office an average of 1.5 days a week. In an attempt to encourage employees back, businesses have been trying to make the workplace a more healthy and attractive place to be — not just to work, but to eat, drink, and take part in activities. So what does this office look like? What new workplace habits and lifestyles does it cater to? And how are the fundamentals of fresh air, daylight and thermal comfort being sustainably delivered?


Lynne Clapham-Carter, Ben Hancock, Catherine van der Heide, Julian de Metz, and Helen Arvanitakis 

In an AT Webinar, supported by Geberit and Oscar Acoustics, Helen Arvanitakis, director of Design District; Lynne Clapham-Carter, specification manager at Geberit; Julian de Metz, founding director of dMFK; Ben Hancock, managing director of Oscar Acoustics; and Catherine van der Heide, principal at Hassell, discussed how, post-covid, workplaces are changing to maximise health and wellbeing.


B4 creative studio building at Greenwich Design District, designed by David Kohn Architects (ph: Taran Wilkhu)

Arvanitakis began by outlining how the Greenwich Design District was catering to creative tenants by dividing the East London site into four quarters, with each quarter having four buildings authored by eight different architects – all working without knowing what each other was doing. Each brief, though, called for generally open floor plates or stipulated a small plot in order to maximise daylight and natural ventilation – the latter not just making the offices pleasant to be in, but cheaper to run too. “Maintaining a manually operated window is a fraction of the cost of maintaining a whole air conditioning system inside a building,” explained Arvanitakis. “Following this principle for lots of design decisions has enabled us to bring prices right down.”


Oscar Acoustics’ SonaSpray K-13 Special at 20 Water Street, London (photo courtesy of tétris designxbuild, and Jonathan Banks Photography)

Up next was Ben Hancock, who opened with the statistic that one million employees in Britain are exposed to levels of noise that puts their hearing at risk. Hancock described these environments a ‘sonic battlegrounds’, forums in which even a phone ring can reach 80 decibels. Amid a presentation laden with noisy stats, one stuck out in particular: one in ten office workers resort to physical violence due to noise-related issues in the workplace (data from an Oscar Acoustics-conducted survey of 2,000 office workers across the UK).


SonaSpray fcx from Oscar Acoustics at 22 Bishopsgate, London (photo courtesy of DesignLSM, Adnitt Acoustics , and Andrew Meredith Photography)

To mitigate sound reverberation in offices – and potential punch-ups – Hancock identified acoustic spray, specifically SonaSpray K-13 Special from Oscar Acoustics as a solution. Applied to a thickness of 25mm on profiled metal decks at a JLL premises in Canary Wharf, the spray created optimum acoustic environments for JLL’s office space, meeting rooms and breakout spaces within the building.


‘Olive grove’ meeting space at Sky Central, London, designed by Hassell (photo: Mark Cocksedge)

Third in the line-up was Catherine van der Heide, who’s studio, Hassell, recently worked with AL_A and PLP architects on the new London office for broadcaster Sky. Called Sky Central, van der Heide described the project as ‘small neighbourhood’, such is its scale, and prescribed a kit-of-parts to enable adaptability and flexibility for both employer and employees, with these modular elements ranging from desks, to ‘focus pods’ and meeting rooms.


View showing interconnectivity of floor plates at Hassell’s Sky Central headquarters in London (photo: Hufton and Crow)

Hassell’s own research into the company identified that those at corporate level were more likely to work remotely across the office on laptops as opposed to broadcast tech specialists who use specialised machines. This meant that different working environments and ‘workplace neighbourhoods’ could be placed strategically across the 50,000-square-metre building, with sightlines set across the deep floor plates to create a ‘landscape of different enclosures’.


iCon is a complete design-led bathroom series from Geberit

Lynn Clapham-Carter discussed the importance of bathroom design within offices. From an operational perspective, she outlined how infra-red taps can optimise hand hygiene, allow for easy cleaning, and save up to 80 per cent of water usage, reducing operational expenditure.

Meanwhile, touch-free urinal and toilet facilities allow for automatic operation, again being a hygiene boon, but with some products having a ‘dynamic flushing programme’ set to decrease flush times when bathrooms are in demand.


Geberit DuoFresh module

Clapham-Carter was also keen to stress how “washroom facilities are all too often valued purely for their functional benefits.” These places are often used as areas of private refuge, with their design quality being inherently conducive to this function. Clapham-Carter put this in theatrical terms: “If the office workspace is the stage, the then the washroom is very much the dressing room.”


Remodelled exterior of York House, London, by dMFK (photo: Jack Hobhouse)

Finally, Julian de Metz  described how offices were competing with homes to be comfortable and convenient places to work. “The number one thing in the market right now is massive investment in how the tenant feels, facilitating communality and creating distinctive buildings,” he said. Building on this, de Metz showed some of the work dFMK has been doing with The Office Group (TOG), including York House in London, which uses a perforated brick lattice to filter natural light in – turning a once drab 1980s office building into a, bright, co-working space.


Typical co-working area at York House, London, by dMFK (photo: Jack Hobhouse)

Another office on Fitzroy Street boasts an ‘office shopfront’, designed to create a sense of ownership and pride, while making people feel special. On every floor, corridors have been differentiated, but sized wide enough so office rooms can spill out into them if need be.

Source: Architecture Today