Review of Stockland head office, Architecture Bulletin, November/ December 2007 

Stockland moved in to their new head offices, ‘Stockhome’ in Sydney in April 2007.   The move marks a new direction for Stockland both as a mean of housing its expanding workforce and an opportunity to show industry leadership in the recycling of an existing space.

The  previous office in Liverpool Street at the southern edge of the CBD was in a non-descript 1960s office building, currently being demolished for Stockland’s new apartment development, The Hyde.  Typical of this building type, individual storeys and departments were ‘siloed’ from each other, with the only connection being chance encounters in the lift. On moving in to the new office, it was surprising to see so many apparently new faces, though they were in fact long-term employees. The new workplace, connected by  a ‘vertical street’ has resulted in meeting more people.

Stockland had been considering a relocation  for some time and had reviewed a number of options. Beyond the need to occupy a Stockland-owned CBD building there was an aspirational desire to pull all the separate operating divisions together and create “one Stockland” as one of the business outcomes.  When a significant vacancy of contiguous floors came up in the Piccadilly Tower, this location was decided upon in February 2006.  An internal team was created which included senior management and slices of the company who responded via focus groups.  A strong response resounded championing an environmental solution.  Accordingly  a series of workshops were held to evolve this idea with the assistance of DEGW who were engaged to prepare both a strategic and an aspirational brief.  This was then followed by a functional brief.

One of the early decisions was that everyone was to be open-plan. This led to some basic workplace principles that included  the same workstation model provided for everyone.  The functional brief then created the workspace relationships and accommodation layouts.

Experienced workplace architects, Bligh Voller Nield were engaged, drawing on their earlier experience on projects such as MLC North Sydney and NAB Melbourne Docklands.

The ‘Vertical Street’

The ‘big idea’ for the project was the creation of a ‘vertical street’ that would connect all eight storeys of the tenancy.  A central atrium with connecting stair was pivotal in the strategy of breaking  down corporate and departmental barriers and fostering communication and interaction.  From the start it was a key principle to have an atrium with the acknowledgement that this would mean a loss of floor space, (notwithstanding the challenges of cutting existing concrete floors in an occupied building).  Through the design process, a number of atrium options were tested and the solution evolved not as a  regular stacked atrium, which would have been more spatially efficient, but rather as a stepped arrangement where every floor is offset from the one immediately above and below.  The resulting solution provides an intriguing spatial quality that offers a variety of visual experiences.  A commercially operated café has been created on one of the central floors which now also operates as an informal meeting space.  

ARUP produced the fire engineering study that modelled the design solution.  Given that eight storeys are connected vertically, there was a need for a series of horizontal and vertical fire curtains that close of the space on a fire trip.

A ‘communal rather than territorial attitude to space’ has been one of the key objectives of the new workplace.  A range of spaces and facilities are provided throughout the space which can be accessed by all users. These consist of: meeting rooms with a wide variety of facilities & sizes ; project rooms which are larger meeting rooms able to be rearranged for project style events; quiet rooms or non-bookable spaces for uninterrupted work and accessible to all; touchdowns – workspaces for visitors from other offices; and breakout areas – throughout the workspace, meeting tables, teapoint tables and café area are all available for informal meetings.  This open approach minimises barriers between people and the reduction in vertical surfaces supports the introduction of natural light to all. Formal and informal meeting rooms have been deliberately located to maximize interactions by causing people to go beyond their immediate workspace. 

An homogeneous approach to the work setting has been designed to deliver maximum flexibility in terms of churn within the workplace. In addition to the physical workspaces, technology is a significant enabler of mobility. Everyone has  precisely two lineal metres of storage, a significant reduction from the previous office and process that required a great deal of culling.

Stockhome embodies many principles of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, most notably through providing an engaging and healthy workplace and demonstrating improved environmental performance. ARUP were engaged as the Environmental consultants to develop the ESD targets and strategies. While the targets focus on the environmental outcomes, the wider approach has responded to employee and community goals. Stockland is striving to achieve a high Green Star target for the relocation and a number of initiatives have been identified to achieve this. The initiatives being implemented include:

Mechanical Strategies: These consist of providing a high efficiency variable air volume (VAV) system to enable improved control of air distribution as well as increased fresh air rates and consequent reduction of contaminants.  There is also improved zoning of air within tenancies
Lighting Strategies: It was a design requirement to maximise daylight without glare and for the design layout to improve access to external or internal views.  The central atrium significantly increases the amount of day lighting. To supplement the natural day lighting, artificial lighting adoptsT5 triphosphor fluorescent lighting and is movement sensor operated so as to switch off automatically when the space is empty (or nobody is moving).    Ceilings have been modelled so as to provide high points (the painted underside of the slab above) and thus avoid a continual flat ceiling landscape.  In these high zones, lighting changes from recessed troffers to suspended fittings and therefore a variety of illumination levels are provided. 
Materials Selection Strategies:
Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emission products were selected for paints, carpets, sealants, work stations & associated office furniture. Recycled Blackbutt has been adopted for all partition door frames and wall lining around the core while recycled rubber flooring has been laid on the floor.
Transport Strategies: Bicycle storage and associated change / shower facilities are provided to encourage bike commuting.
Cogeneration: A large part of Stockhome’s sustainability strategy, in seeking a six-star Greenstar rating from the Green Building Council, is to provide cogeneration. This will be via a gas turbine in the building producing electricity and therefore producing less CO2 than burning coal and drawing from the grid. It will ultimately achieve a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions.  The building is currently being monitored for 12 months of continuous occupation data on its physical energy useage rating to achieve a benchmark 5-star ABGR.

Additional Facilities
A Child Care facility is proposed to open in level 2 of the building next year for use by employees.  An operator was chosen after an extensive selection process  and Geyer Design are proceeding with a design for the fitout.   The facility will include an ‘external’ play space, albeit contained within a glass roof , which is being designed by Ric Mcconaghy.  Level 2 will also have a Learning and Development centre that will cater for visitors and training seminars.

There were no significant spatial changes to the ground floor foyer of the building. This was heavily constrained in that Wesley Mission church has one of Sydney’s busiest conference centres underneath with its own time constrictions for construction work, also retailers have different times as does Council.

The organisation is proud of what has been achieved at Stockhome and is keen to further display its capabilities in new purpose built workplaces.  As for the people who inhabit Stockhome, beyond greater interaction and the chance to meet the approximately 500 people who share the space, it appears that everyone has started dressing better.  Possibly the mark of a work culture proud of its environment?

Ben Giles
National Manager- Housing and Built Form
Stockland Design House