📸Sarah da Pina 🖊By Gareth Griffiths
The global shifts in the last three years, including the pandemic, towards online and home-based working, has brought about a series of fundamental shifts in the commercial office environment where business’ and their employees have subsequently been questioning the need for large office spaces and the general concept of the ‘office’ at large and as a result have look at ways to reduce and optimise their current rentable area. Claire D’Adorante of Paragon Interface discusses the changes that have occurred and the direction that modern interior designers and workspace strategists are taking.
“The trends we have seen in South Africa over the past three years have not been much different from those on a global scale. However, now that ‘return to work’ drivers are becoming more prevalent, businesses are strategising the need to adapt and change their workspaces to attract and retain the talent they have, as well as encourage people to return to the office. Their approach has been to customise the traditional workspace to the ‘new’ ways of working,” says D’Adorante.
Office spaces need to offer more
“In short, office spaces need to offer more. It’s competitive out there. Post-pandemic, businesses are struggling to retain staff and skills. Offices are now competing with the comfort of the home office environment.
“Therefore the drive is becoming to make the office more safe and secure. Locations should offer easy access to transport routes and public transport and become more connected to the public realm. Access to surrounding green space where possible, should provide a more holistic life experience to workers,” she advises.
“Modern office space also needs to offer convenience, in terms of inclusion of or proximity to retail offerings that make working life easier. For example, access to great coffee and food, wellness and health spaces such as gyms and spas, relaxation and social spaces that allow people to reconnect with colleagues.
“Such reconnection is a physical thing and is a known primary driver for people wanting to return to work. Research has shown that people when connected to each other are more creative and innovative and the workplace today needs to provide spaces in which people can be encouraged to be that.“
The case study: 7 Parks Boulevard
With this in mind, Paragon Interface approached the design of the new Anglo American Global Shared Services (Ikusasa) offices located at 7 Parks Boulevard, Oxford Parks, Dunkeld.
The newly built property recently became a part of the Oxford Parks vibrant precinct in Rosebank, Johannesburg for Ikusasa. From the Anglo American perspective, the design of this new facility for its Global Shared Services division was more than just another workspace. It was an expression of a company that is actively embracing the future of work and sustainability, and Paragon Interface was instrumental in helping shape this.
Of late, having both 6-star Green Star v1.1 Design and As Built certifications, along with a Net Zero level 1 certification, which is recognised as market leadership, this 7 585m² commercial building is a tangible representation of Anglo American’s commitment to the future of sustainability.
This sustainable, technologically connected and innovative workspace is balanced by its urban responsiveness to the Oxford Parks’ precinct with a dynamic, high-street culture combined with the connectivity of business, life, and leisure of the surrounding environment.
The ground floor spaces, designed with shared spaces that are aesthetically linked to branding in Anglo American’s 144 Oxford facility, also connect back to the urban framework of Oxford Parks.
A client meeting suite, a coffee shop, liquid and employee restaurant on the ground floor are provided with connections to the urban framework of Oxford Parks. Cyclist’s facilities encourage wellness.
Staff restaurant – Pumulu Lounge
The employee restaurant Pumula Lounge (‘a place for rest’), was conceptualized to be the heart of this organization, offering a unique relaxation and catering experience for all and encouraging a sense of community. It is designed to provide a distinctly urban aesthetic in response to its location in Oxford Parks, combined with Anglo American elegance and sophistication.
The light-filled interior spaces create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that is reflective of the client’s corporate brand and values, combined with distinctive colours and textures influenced by the surrounding environment.
The interior workspace is structured as a flexible and adaptable task-based working environment that realizes an idea of a ‘future smart workplace’; a concept that draws on contemporary and future workplace tools and technology to empower employees by providing them opportunities to creatively work within a flexible and adaptable system according to their diverse and specific needs.
It enables focused and concentrated work, as well as facilitating agile and adaptive business needs, whilst enabling and strengthening social connections between colleagues encouraging inclusivity and diversity.
To enable a true realization of the ‘Future Smart’ workspace, the incorporation of intuitive, leading technologies were key strategies, such as plug and play AV systems and a globally linked room booking system and smart energy efficient lighting throughout. The materiality of the spaces have a rich combination of textures through ‘engineered and expressive detailing’ with highly technical materials and natural elements combined with biophilia.
Adapting to flexible outcomes
D’Adorante says that she works with many large professional and financial services organisations and recently they have been exploring ways in which they can make their office spaces more flexible to adapt to changing work conditions.
Often these changing conditions consist of a much higher percentage of online calls requiring short-term private spaces to take those calls; coupled with hot desk workspace areas that enable people to quickly interact with each other when they pop into the office.
“These businesses have been asking us to look at interventions where these collaborative work areas and pod rooms can be incorporated in a quick and cost-effective way. We have been working with many furniture companies that have been developing locally freestanding, demountable pod rooms which can be easily installed without much impact on building services for exactly this new workplace requirement,” she finishes.
About 7 Parks Boulevard
The appointed contractor for the build, Concor says it has accumulated expertise in recent years in the management of fast track construction projects. Hence, it leveraged its depth of skills successfully; this time with Anglo American Global Shared Services’ (GSS) Ikusasa building in the Oxford Parks precinct in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Warren Mills, site agent at Concor responsible for the project, says that fast track construction has become increasingly prevalent as it allows occupancy within a shorter period of time from the decision being made to begin construction.
“It does, however, require a more agile approach to construction especially as this type of project is far more complex with numerous subcontractors interfacing under a tight construction programme,” he says.
“The Ikusasa project eventually had more than 70 subcontractors on site, in addition to our own team of core disciplines. So it is all about tight control over scheduling and close coordination with all.”
Mills says that bulk excavations for the three basement levels started in January 2021, and the concrete structure for the four storey building topped out by August the same year.
“The result was to facilitate beneficial occupation for the tenant, giving them early access in a phased approach to prepare the working areas with furniture and other fixtures in time for employees to start work,” says Mills.