Eating the elephant: design large scale workplace environments

Angela Ferguson


With the Barangaroo South extension of the Sydney CBD well underway there are a number of large tenants underpinning the construction works.  These include PwC, HSBC, Westpac, KPMG, Gilbert and Tobin and Lend Lease. These workplaces are predicted to be between 10,000m2 and 80,000m2 in size,accommodating between 800 and 7,000 people per fitout.

So how exactly do clients and consultants deliver these large scale workplace projects? The same way you eat an elephant – one bite at a time!

Projects of this scale can understandably seem daunting and overwhelming – after all, how does a client wrap their head around designing a workplace for 3,000 people in a building of 40,000m2 (or 400,000 sq feet) let alone consider the logistics of consolidating a number of sites, physically moving a whole community of people, implementing significant change management and technology programs and ensuring that critical key performance indicators (KPI’s) around quality, budget and program are met.

Over the years Futurespace has designed a number of these large scale workplaces (a full list is below) and we’ve included our 3 top tips for ‘eating the workplace elephant’:

  1. Collaborative Leadership: the success of any architectural (or even other type of) project, depends on how well the process, program and team is managed. A truly skilled project manager is essential to successfully deliver a large scale workplace project. Great project managers are like the most effective CEO’s – they are leaders who think strategically and are formed (like diamonds) under intense pressure. They can co-ordinate and communicate effectively with all the stakeholders and consultants, and will be able to adapt to the inevitable changes in program, team, budget, brief as well as any unforeseen circumstances (like a site fire or other disaster). Here’s a fantastic article that details exactly what it is that makes a great project manager.
  2. Celebrate Milestones: it can be difficult to maintain momentum and team motivation in a project that develops over an extended period of time. Quite often, I’ve got to the end of a project that has been all-consuming over a number of years and thought “is that all there is to show for my efforts?”. To counteract that underwhelmed feeling it is important to celebrate milestones. These could be related to project design phases such as signing off the workplace concept design or even cutting the stair penetrations (if the fitout isn’t integrated) . It could also be done at timely intervals ie: 6 monthly with a full list of achievements and successes that have occurred within that timeframe – no matter how small.
  3. You’re only as strong as your weakest link in a highly competitive global market, talented staff who are not only productive but who are also engaged are critical to any project’s success, wherever they are in the food chain. In large scale workplace projects everyone has a role to play. The architectural and design team will be made up of a series of crackerjack smaller teams, all reporting to the Design Director. At Futurespace, our people are our greatest asset; we invest as much in our executive team as we do in our graduates, and in everyone in-between. And we know that the reason more than 80% of our business is from repeat clients is due to our amazingly talented team.

So if you are contemplating a workplace move of significant size; the 3 tips outlined above are paramount to achieving an outstanding result. If you’d like to discuss further contact Futurespace’s Managing Director Angela Ferguson or Director and Workplace Strategist Stephen Minnett.

Futurespace’s large scale workplace projects include: