ACTIVITY-BASED WORKING AND SUSTAINABILITY LOWER COSTS
Is it a giant sculpture? No. It’s the new ASB North Wharf headquarters at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter where hi-tech companies, head offices and restaurants are breathing new life into the old working wharves and “tank farm” storage silo area between the CBD and the Harbour Bridge. The ASB building is based on three basic principles: Activity-Based Working (ABW), maximum sustainability and cost savings. Last month a group of FMANZ members toured the building for a first hand look at these innovations.
The seven-level open plan headquarters is actually two buildings joined by a glazed multi- level walkway over a central public lane. The interior, with its huge central atrium, bridges and stairs offers a 3D view of simultaneous activities on a variety of levels. Designed from the inside out, the fit out is based on a village concept with themed “neighbourhoods” and a range of communal spaces and work settings.
Designed by architects BVN (Sydney) and Jasmax (Auckland), the 20,000 sq m building is owned by Kiwi Income Property Trust. The ASB has taken an 18-year lease for about 18,000 sq m.
Let’s start with cost savings. Rod Aitken, the project director and head of property strategic projects, told the FMANZ group that activity-based working required only 80% of an open plan campus built environment. Operating costs are also expected to benefit from centralised procurement and zero churn.
The aim is to reduce operating costs by 25% per person.
Activity-Based Working (ABW), pioneered by consultants Veldhoen + Company of the Netherlands, is the key to the design and internal fit out. Veldhoen’s Sydney office is responsible for the workplace strategy of this building, with the goal of cutting costs and boosting productivity.
The 1250 staff work in a flexible manner. They sit wherever they wish within their “neighbourhood” or home base, depending on what they are doing that day. These neighbourhoods each support around 100 staff and are defined by colour.
There are no offices and no owned desks. Desk height is adjustable (no need for footstools), with built-in plugs (no wires) and desks range in various heights, right up to stand-up tables. Or, staff may choose to work in an “ear” chair, a private chair with high sides which in groups of four can be used for small meetings. Meeting rooms have state-of-the-art videoconferencing, reducing the need for travel to branch meetings.
And if you really want to get away from it all, there’s the aqua pod – a circular aqua coloured space with plush carpet wrapping itself around floors, walls and ceiling. The effect is womb-like, almost like being inside a very modern Hobbit house.
ABW cuts across the team-style, silo working areas of more traditional layouts. Instead of working in teams, ABW workers tend to gravitate to working as a company, collectively across all divisions. Even the executive team at ASB doesn’t have allocated seating.
There is Wi-Fi throughout the building and thin client server-based data retrieval. Staff have iPads and laptops, and some desktop computers are also available for specialist applications. A team of three IT fix-it boffins roam the seven floors ready to help anyone with a technical problem.
And, of course, this is a near paperless office. Before the move to Wynyard Quarter staff were told that each department would be permitted only 900mm of shelf space per person for paper, to be stored in a central filing system. Quite a challenge to reduce years of accumulated paper to that dimension, but they managed.
As well as central storage systems, there are also central lockers where staff can store personal belongings.
The Deck, a café with a variety of seating combinations, is the social hub of the building. On the rooftop, with views over the harbour and back toward the city, a large barbecue area invites further social mingling. But it’s not just the social areas that can create cross-fertilisation of ideas. This no-walls building encourages the “bump factor”- people finding themselves unexpectedly talking to someone who can help their project. It also makes for fewer e-mails. Why e-mail when you can see the person a few feet away?
This is a smart building, with integrated technology controlling the services within the building. It has already been awarded five Green Stars from the Zealand Green Building Council for excellence in sustainability. Lighting, access, security, communication, climate control and connectivity all link together to optimise the work environment, while also reducing ecological impacts.
The target is 50% less energy use per person.
A reflector tongue on top of the building attracts sunlight and deflects it down a shaft to light the inner spaces. This provides a natural light source not dissimilar to a solar light tube.
The environmental control system, provided by Aquaheat, is a bespoke solution using the principle of displacement ventilation operated in synergy with natural ventilation to minimise energy consumption by maximising free cooling available from Auckland’s mild climate . When a green light is on, windows can be opened manually for natural ventilation to serve the perimeter spaces while the central plant ensures internal spaces are comfortable and fresh. A red light indicates that all windows should be closed and an optimum building environment is then entirely managed by the building management system and central plant.
The building utilises passive features such as exposed thermal mass and stack effect to extract heat from the building and exhaust it through internal atria. Louvres in a chimney-like structure on top open depending on wind direction, dragging heat load from the building.
Rain water is harvested, with 50% of restroom water now coming from a rainwater source.
A complex recycling system ensures maximum recycling, and this will be audited periodically.
Centralised procurement is already a big success story with the office’s 200 printers now reduced to only 32, but serving 20% more staff.
With no ceilings in this building, cleaning has its own particular challenge. Although all the exposed ducts are finished to a high standard they are more difficult to clean than an integrated surface.