Friday, 7 October 2016

Work On The Move 2 book launched at World Workplace, San Diego

IFMA Foundation has published the sequel to Work on the Move at IFMA's World Workplace Conference in San Diego. Alexi Marmot contributed the chapter on workplace trends around the world to Work on the Move 2: How Social, Leadership and Technology Innovations are Transforming the Workplace in the Digital Economy

The new book is the collaborative effort of 15 international experts in the fields of workplace strategy, human capital, real estate, technology and business. The book helps organisations prepare for the future of work, workers and the workplace.

The concepts shared in this new book help companies understand how to achieve critical workplace transformation in today’s digital and shared economy.  Showcased are 17 case studies of great workplaces around the world with an emphasis on their impact on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Topics covered include: the latest global workplace trends, leadership changes, as well as the changes occurring in social responsibility; the increased importance of employee well-being; the silo-busting going on in real estate, human resources, information technology, and facility management groups to lead workplace change; new technologies being experimented and deployed for greater productivity and engagement of workplace professionals; and a day in the life of a future ‘placemaker’.  

Co-editors Nancy Johnson Sanquist and Diane Coles Levine had a vision for the first edition of Work on the Move, to “raise awareness within the facility management profession and create a vibrant movement of disparate, forward-thinking professionals dedicated to improving the workplace.”  This book was the catalyst for the creation of the IFMA Workplace Evolutionaries (WE), and two Workplace Strategy Summits; the first held at Cornell University and the second in cooperation with University College London. 

The vision for the second edition is wider: to raise consciousness and create alliances between the various professions involved (human resources, finance, information technology etc) to work together to create high-performing workplaces

Sponsored by FM:Systems, Kimball Office, Planon, and Trimble, as well as other organisations, 100% of the proceeds of the book will support the mission of the IFMA Foundation’s Global Workforce Initiative (GWI).

Visit the Work on the Move website for more information and to share your thoughts, ideas and case studies.

Monday, 25 January 2016

AMA’s work with Sheffield Hallam’s Learning Centre features in new UX book

AMA design director David Jenkin has contributed to a new book about the way users experience library spaces and services. David, together with Bea Turpin, Deborah Harrop, Edward Oyston, Maurice Teasdale and John McNamara, considers what makes an informal learning space, based on work for Sheffield Hallam University.
Sheffield Hallam University Adsetts Centre. Image © AMA

AMA won a competition to help Sheffield Hallam upgrade the Adsetts Learning Centre at the heart of the campus.  As part of a three year, multi-phase project, AMA’s designs integrated exciting and engaging social learning and group study spaces into a wider mix of learning facilities. Increasing clear views across spaces and adding colour highlights further enhanced the environment. Helpdesk facilities were improved and new worksettings, including shared meeting booths and presentation rooms, were positioned in prime space liberated by relocating staff.

Commenting on the project, David Jenkin said: “Using evidence from occupation surveys and involving both students and staff in the process allowed AMA to transform the building into a totally student-focussed facility, providing a whole range of different places for study.”

Sheffield Hallam students responded very positively to the upgraded Learning Centre. In the 2013 National Student Survey, 89% of SHU’s students praised the library and its resources with one commenting: “It's a place you really want to study in - as soon as you walk in you're in the mindset to work, in a really comfortable environment.”

The editors of User Experience in Libraries point to growing interest in building a more complete picture of user experience: “Librarians are now employing ethnographic and human-centred design techniques to explore how users are interacting with library services. These methods involve us observing our users, participating in their environments and recording their choices, activities and culture in a more holistic and detailed way than ever before.”

User Experience in Libraries, subtitled Applying Ethnography and Human-Centred Design, is edited by Andy Priestner of Cambridge University and consultant Matt Borg. Incorporating contributions from librarians, anthropologists and designers from the UK and the US, the book offers guidance, analysis and case studies of user experience research and seeks to ignite interest and enthusiasm in this “emerging and game-changing field” that has the potential to make a significant impact on the way librarians currently deliver services. It will be published by Ashgate in April.

Friday, 20 November 2015

LBS Clifton Housing, Peckham

AMA is working in the Mott MacDonald team on two projects in Peckham. The Cator Street Dementia Daycare facility (centre of Excellence), and Clifton Housing. The housing scheme will provide 8 units, including one accessible unit, and is currently on site and due for completion early in 2016.
This is a very difficult and tight site. Formerly a series of underused garages it was important to knit the proposals with the local infrastructure and community needs. The project was overwhelmingly popular with local residents and at public meetings the reaction was totally positive and the proposals seen as a strong indicator of major improvements in the area.

AMA’s role was to develop proposals for this tight site and get the best orientation possible on this polluted and inhospitable road. This was achieved by good acoustic insulation, putting living rooms to the quieter east side, and the option of using fresh air mechanically delivered from the cleaner rear areas.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Alexi Marmot to speak on Bath Spa University’s uncommon Commons

How are university buildings evolving to accommodate new ways of teaching and learning? Alexi Marmot will be addressing this question when she speaks at next month’s Education Estates conference in Manchester

Alexi will describe how AMA helped to articulate and deliver a new vision for the Commons building at Bath Spa University. Design Director David Jenkin led the interior strategy, consultation and design. Commons is a fascinating, flexible and innovative new facility. Designed by Cube Design and opened in 2014 by David Puttnam, it is the university’s largest building at 8,000 sq m and the hub of the Newton Park campus.
Lord Puttnam opening the Commons building
Commons was conceived as a different type of university building. Providing learning, teaching and meeting spaces, staff work bases and major specialist digital studios, it needed to be highly flexible, fit for the current and next generation of students and staff.
Different furniture and space types encouraging a range
of activities
The university recognised that a different approach was needed for the shell and the interior, says Alexi: “Both architectural and interior workstreams maintained an inventive and collaborative approach, allowing each to focus on their different domains: one on the building fabric to create a robust shell, naturally ventilated, energy efficient, and the other on end users and anticipating future change in university activities.”
Spaces encouraging collaborative working
The new building represents quite radical change for the university.  Staff and students share the same building, and many of the same facilities. Academic staff work in a club-type zone with few conventional workplaces, none individually owned. Elsewhere, teaching rooms are interspersed with breakout and group study areas in local hubs. Interactive group learning spaces, individual and quiet study areas, are provided generously on the ground floor alongside a design lab, recording studio, and large flexible conference room.
Part contained spaces provide some intimacy

“The new building was immediately popular with students following its launch in mid-2014,” says Alexi, “and is full of their energy and enthusiasm.” Commons was a runner-up in the Buildings that Inspire category of the Guardian’s University Awards this year

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Flexible space goes corporate

Alexi Marmot has contributed to a Guardian article on co-working spaces. She says: “They are the latest incarnation of serviced offices or office hotelling, selling fully fitted out and equipped space including receptionists, coffee and access to meeting rooms only for the duration over which they are needed. Expensive, inflexible and long leases for corporate offices are no longer essential and indeed seem increasingly questionable, particularly if the occupants in any case don’t like working there”

The article looks at the rise of flexible and shared space, coinciding with the millennial generation entering the workforce. The impact on the traditional property world is also covered as “the concept of flexible space has become firmly entrenched in the corporate world, both for the short-term - when sales reps need meeting spaces for presentations and for longer projects.”

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Do universities need ‘iconic’ buildings?

In an article for the Guardian Higher Education Network, Alexi Marmot questions the benefits of buildings commissioned to make an impact.

Bath Spa University Commons - fit-out by AMA 
Spaces encouraging collaborative working
Ambitious university leaders bring together “starchitects” and wealthy sponsors eager to provide funds for flagship buildings. Starchitects play with the ideas of crumbling buildings, irregular shapes and angular geometries, rather than conventional vertical planes and rectilinear structures. Their designs hint that universities are organisations whose mission is to question traditional ways of thinking, to break down conventions.

Do such ambitious buildings really work for the staff and students for whom they are designed? What aspects of the new buildings stimulate better teaching, learning and research? Might more restrained and elegantly designed buildings meet university requirements just as well? Can unpretentious, cheap buildings erected rapidly by design and build contractors, satisfy users?

We need much more solid evidence to answer these questions with conviction. Research on “post-occupancy evaluation” – how buildings are perceived by those who use them – is still rather unusual, although it is always recommended. University estate directors have collaborated on a methodology for conducting post-occupancy evaluation through the Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF) – but few apply it.

National Student Survey results for 2015 show that 86% of undergraduates are satisfied with their learning resources (library, IT and access to specialised equipment, facilities and rooms.) Good news, but it does not illuminate whether particular buildings or features are positive.

Other research shows that the staff are generally less satisfied with their facilities than students are, which could mean they negatively impact on their research and teaching. But this year’s sector efficiency report led by Sir Ian Diamond rates 85% of HE space as good to excellent.

Radical shifts in the way students earn and digital technologies for teaching and learning - virtual learning environments, lecturecasts, online quizzes, webinars, skype tutorials, flipped classrooms, Moocs - make new demands on buildings, data connectivity and infrastructure. They also raise the prospect that education can be delivered without going to a place called a university.

When asked their views, students commonly complain about poor internal air quality and temperature, and express the need for more spaces for group work with their peers, more computers and computer rooms. They want “make spaces” for creative experimentation, and more social learning spaces, and they want these spaces to be open 24/7.

All university buildings – the new and the old – need to respond to evolving requirements. Flexibility and adaptability through time is one of the most precious attributes of all HE buildings.

European universities and their architecture have already endured for more than a millennium, and more than 800 years in the UK. All have grown dramatically in the last century and continue to grow, even as online learning accelerates. Their future success and survival will be aided by better and more adaptable buildings, based on a well-researched evidence base.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Offices on the airwaves

Tooley Street, Southwark Council Offices where AMA introduced
modern ways of working
Images © 2012 Gareth Gardner

Offices are in the news again, prompted in the UK by new advice on the health benefits of standing at work and in Finland by the decision by Juha Sipilä, the recently-elected Prime Minister of Finland, that his Cabinet will work alongside officials in an open plan office*.

Following the news from Helsinki, the BBC World Service asked Alexi Marmot to comment on open plan offices. Alexi pointed out that, whilst organisations tend to cite better communication, collaboration and supervision, open plan offices offer great economic gains - are generally cheaper to construct - requiring fewer walls, less servicing, and simpler environmental controls. And they also enable organisations to accommodate more people more efficiently.

Open plan space can be fine for routine work but can become more controversial where work is confidential or privacy for conversation is needed. The most frequent criticism from those working in open plan offices is that they are noisy and disturbing but, says Alexi, noise is partly a function of how you interpret sound: “It’s possible for people to get into a zone of concentration in extremely noisy environments. Working in complete quiet can also be a problem.”

Last week BBC Radio 4 re-broadcast The Search for The Perfect Office a half-hour programme presented by Claudia Hammond with contributions from researchers, including Professor Dylan Jones and Dr Bill Macken (Cardiff University School of Psychology;  Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and Columbia University and Professor Alexi Marmot (UCL and AMA).

There certainly seems to be a gap between our dreams of the “perfect office” and the reality, with those interviewed hankering for a cafĂ© table in an Italian square or a garden room with a view.

As expected, architects come in for some criticism, particularly over their choice of materials. Favoured finishes such as stone, glass, metal and concrete are all hard, reflective surfaces that contribute to the most common complaints about modern office life – noise and lack of privacy.

There seems to be something of a paradox here as people (both managers and staff) often say they like the “vibrant”, “buzzy” atmosphere of their office whilst complaining that they can’t concentrate there and retreating to the coffee shop or home.

The notion that lively, quirky offices are particularly conducive to creativity was questioned by contributors. Quiet and noisy people, introverts and extroverts are all creative, so we need to think about individual traits rather than stereotypes.

The researchers pointed out the subtleties of acoustic design. Volume is not necessarily important in terms of interference, change is the key. A relatively loud background hubbub may also be preferable to perfect silence which can be intimidating. Research shows that people do not get “used to” intrusive noise  - a point picked up at the recent Healthy Workplace event, see

Addressing the issue of research, Alexi Marmot said that most architectural research is geared to the physical aspects of buildings, rather than to the organisations and individuals that occupy them and their perceptions. She explained that most office buildings are designed not for occupiers but for the market, so cannot necessarily be attuned to specific users’ needs. The margins on most architectural work make it difficult to do new research or even to spend time reading the research that exists.

“The building industry and clients generally don’t want to hear bad news but when we do post-occupancy evaluations (POEs) we nearly always identify quite small, simple things that can be fixed there and then, often quite cheaply.”

Alexi pointed to the trend towards “activity-based working”, which means people can move to places appropriate to the work that they’re doing.

“Our research suggests that the ‘perfect office’ often starts with where it is and how you reach it. Daylight and a view, especially of nature, are important, along with environmental comfort and good IT support. However, the best workplaces, as voted for by users, consistently demonstrate more abstract values such as trust, respect and fairness. These are a function of organisational culture but the physical space can also express these values.”

*Listen to a report on the Finnish government’s plans and comparisons with other administrations (from 24:10)