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Arup’s new offices set bar high for workplace wellness

Arup's new home at Barrack Place, Sydney
Arup's new home at Barrack Place, Sydney

Arup’s Sydney team has just moved into new digs in Barrack Place and couldn’t be more pleased.

The project, developed by Investa and designed by Architectus, was structured in such a way that allowed Arup to become a consultant on the base building right from the start in 2013 when the lease was first signed. According to Arup’s Sydney office leader Andrew Pettifer, this offered Arup the perfect opportunity to imbue a wellness and sustainability focus into the building’s very foundations.

The building’s credentials include WELL Core and Shell Gold Pre-certification, a 6-star Green Star rating and a targeted 5-star NABERS Energy rating.

According to Mr Pettifer, one of Arup’s biggest contributions to Barrack Place’s sustainability and wellness credentials was the underfloor airconditioning system that can enhance air quality, thermal comfort, and energy efficiency.

The firm also worked alongside Hassell Studio to co-design its own office workspace, with the goal to create a space that could only be Arup,”. Mr Pettifer told The Fifth Estate this week.

For a company that works in many different fields, fostering a genuinely collaborative workspace was key, he said.

As the modern workforce becomes increasingly agile, it was also important to create a space “where people really want to come”. This means optimal working conditions that are sensitive to human health and wellbeing.

A “diversity of spaces” is the secret to creating an office space that both encourages connectivity and supports human wellbeing, he said. So there is a “much richer variety of spaces” compared to conventional work plan environments, including “exchange spaces” for people to meet informally, small rooms for enclosed meetings, and seating for meetings on the outdoor terrace.

There’s also a yoga and mindfulness suite, prayer rooms, lighting and sound labs, and a library.

Mr Pettifer said that the library is the perfect place for workers seeking peace and quiet. It helps alleviate issues with excessive and inescapable noise typical of a conventional open plan office.

“There’s a lot of talk about collaborative workspaces, but people often want to hide away. You need to cater for both ends of the spectrum.“

The generous atrium void in the centre of the workspace is also “great for connectivity between all our teams”.

Mr Pettifer said the company was able to provide the variety of spaces in “real estate terms” through agile working.

“We hear people talk about active working to reduce working area. We don’t think about it like that, we think about it as a redistribution.”

He also said that the Sydney team had doubled since the lease was first signed in 2013. The company, therefore, had to take an additional floor of the new building to fit in all 750 or so employees.

The building incorporates a number of other wellness and sustainability features, including:

  • smart sensor technology in all lighting, which can reduce electricity costs by up to 78 per cent
  • microbes and mould targeted by ultraviolet lamps on the cooling coils and drain pans of the mechanical system supplies.
  • high-performance clear and non-tinted glazing that performs at the same level as dark tinted glass while keeping the sun and heat out of the building
  • centralised recycling throughout the building
  • grey water recycling
  • 50 per cent more end-of-trip facilities than a standard building
  • 220 secure bicycle spaces, plus 28 visitor bicycle spaces
  • apps and visual displays throughout the building to help educate users on the building’s performance
  • annual sustainability reports to track the building’s performance

Barrack Place spans 23 stories and provides 22,000 square metres of office and retail space. Other tenants that have signed on include Mills Oakley, Washington H Soul Pattinson, and Pfizer.

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