Airbus Case Study

Congratulations to Airbus and their Filton site in the UK,  on winning the BIFM 'Impact on the Workplace' Award for 2015!

The ‘Impact on the Workplace’ Award recognised working environments or direct FM activities, systems and processes that not only delivered sustainable and functional workplaces but also created a positive workplace that drove increased job satisfaction, productivity for its employees and organisational performance.

The Airbus UK FM team clearly demonstrated great examples of best practice in very challenging circumstances to achieve its goal of transforming the Airbus Filton site. This was not only in the construction of a new state of the art office accommodation but also the refurbishment of a grade 2 listed building. Ensuring the end goal of employee and customer experience was fundamental to ensuring this project was a success and as such created the Impact on the Workplace at the highest levels.

Airbus Case Study Video from Kinnarps UK on Vimeo.

Airbus is the world’s leading commercial aircraft manufacturer and boasts customer focus, commercial expertise, technological leadership and manufacturing efficiency that have set the standard for the aviation industry. Kinnarps UK has worked closely with its global client, in the development of the new, state of the art, Airbus Aerospace Park (AAP), at Filton near Bristol.  

Airbus has had a presence in Filton since 2001 and previously housed its operations, and around 4000 employees, in a number of ageing, leased buildings spread across a wide area.  The company’s desire to create a centre of excellence for aircraft design, housed in inspiring and efficient accommodation, formed the lynchpin of its decision to develop the Airbus Aerospace Park. 

Tom Williams, Airbus’ Senior National Representative in the UK explains its ambitions for the AAP:

‘Aviation is very much a forward looking industry and we are always striving to design and engineer better, more efficient aircraft.  The investment in the Airbus Aerospace Park facilities shows Airbus’s determination to continue investing in Filton - benefiting the whole of the UK aerospace industry and ensuring we remain at the forefront of this thriving global industry both now and into the future.’

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The Park is situated on a 12-acre, freehold site and includes the iconic Pegasus House, a five-storey, art deco building that had played a key role in UK aviation throughout much of the 20th century.  Originally built in 1936 to provide headquarters to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the building had stood empty since the 1990s and had suffered greatly from weather damage and vandalism, before it was purchased and restored by Airbus to its former glory, as part of a £70M investment in the AAP. 

Immediately next to Pegasus House, (which now forms the centrepiece of the AAP and houses 300 staff), stands Barnwell House, a newly constructed, open plan office building, with four atria, which accommodates a further 2,400 engineers, designers and support services.  The combination of new build and listed buildings, as well as the sheer size of the team to be accommodated, presented Airbus, its architects, builders, project managers and furniture specialists, with a raft of logistical challenges.  The project also met with inevitable caution on the part of employees who faced a revolution in their working environment and work style.  

Airbus has adopted an agile working approach, as championed by Kinnarps in own UK headquarters, which offers a range of work settings designed to accommodate a wide range of tasks. This means the new building makes very efficient use of space, as staff can opt to work in a setting best suited to the task at hand.  These settings include individual workstations as well as a number of informal or conventional meeting or concentration spaces, which range from quiet booths to formal, closed meeting rooms, to ad hoc collaboration spaces with bench seating and high tables.  The ground floor central atrium is also home to a wealth of informal meeting spaces, such as circular sofas and more quiet booths.  

Dave Adams, head of real estate and space management for Airbus in the UK, explains how Kinnarps helped to communicate the benefits of the new working style to Airbus management and staff:

 ‘One of the biggest challenges was convincing our own staff that fitting 2400 people into the 24,000 square metres, offered by Barnwell House, was not only achievable, but would be comfortable and effective.

 ‘Kinnarps was hugely supportive, not only in helping us to develop highly effective space plans and an agile working environment, but in using its bespoke design software to produce detailed, 3D drawings that illustrated our intended layouts. They then installed pilot schemes in our existing buildings; so that employees could interact with the chosen furniture and see exactly how flexible working, the workstation and meeting area designs and space allocations would work for them.’

He also explains how Kinnarps helped Airbus to overcome another issue that was concerning staff:

‘People were also worried that it would be extremely difficult to navigate their way around the building. However, Kinnarps worked with us, and our interior architects, to develop colour palettes for each of the floors and for the inner and outer quadrants of Barnwell house. These incorporated our key corporate colours but used a range of co-ordinating shades on upholstery, cabinets and screens, to create interest and texture throughout the building. This colour zoning has helped enormously in orientating our staff, as they now easily recognise where exactly in the building they are, by using colour cues.’

In contrast to the new build Barnwell House, as a Grade II listed building, the Aerospace Park’s centrepiece, Pegasus House, came with its own set of challenges.  The requirement was still to create a vibrant, inspiring workspace for the 300 staff that would inhabit this building, just as in Pegasus House, but with the added considerations of the style and period of the building.  

Again, Kinnarps helped Airbus develop a zoned colour palette, as in Barnwell House, to help differentiate the various areas of the building, with key colours selected from Airbus’s corporate palette, complemented with varying shades and tones of the same colour.  ‘Monitor’ upholstery fabric, in colours appropriate for each area, also echoed the art deco lines of Pegasus house.  

Where Pegasus House has iconic period features, (such as the etched and hand-painted staircase mural windows designed by artist Jan Juta, the conference room’s wood panelling and the decorated-plaster window reveals, created by sculptor Dennis Dunlop) a more subtle ‘heritage’ palette has been applied. This includes rich wooden flooring, birch laminate furnishings and upholstery in natural shades of anthracite and taupe.  

As well as the need to differentiate, visually, the many zones of such a huge workspace, a significant challenge came in the form of designing a project critical path, which would see 2400 workstations delivered, fully assembled and installed within a 21-day window.  James Buchanan, AutoCAD real estate facilities engineer for Airbus in the UK, explains how this was achieved:

‘One of our biggest challenges was fitting out the offices and meetings rooms within very tight deadlines. We had to work closely with Kinnarps’s logistics team to plan exactly how to reach our challenging installation objectives.

‘We managed to achieve our target of 2400 workstations within 21 days, using a two-shift delivery and installation pattern.  We had a team in the morning that delivered the products, unwrapped and laid them out ready and then a second shift, which assembled and installed them in their final locations.

‘The logistics team was incredibly accommodating to Airbus and any sudden changes we needed to make. We had many different tradesmen in the building at the same time, as well as the main contractors who were still snagging, and decorating was still ongoing as the installation was taking place. The Kinnarps installation team allowed us to work around them and were happy to move and work on another area if painting prevented access for a while.

‘Remarkably, despite the scale of the project, with around 13 trailers of product arriving daily, at the end of the process we only had four individual items that needed to be returned damaged.’ 

Feedback from staff has been very positive, with teams enjoying their new, more inspiring workspace and benefiting from better communication and the flexibility of agile working. As James Buchanan observes:

‘One of our targets was to achieve synergies between the teams, so that people were located near the people with whom they worked most often. We needed to ensure that the right teams were on the right floors, with effective communications between interdependent teams. Despite many staff members’ original concerns about the move, believing it would be to a smaller office area, with less individual space, they have been pleasantly surprised by the flexibility of the new space and the way the informal meeting spaces help them to make efficient use of their time.’

He concludes:

‘Our two key objectives were to provide a dynamic workspace that accommodated all work styles and allowed the team to be flexible and mobile throughout the space and to inject vitality and inspirational colour into the work environment.   The working relationship we have developed with Kinnarps has helped us significantly in reaching these goals.’

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Project Facts

Year: 2014
Client: Airbus
Location: Airbus Aerospace Park (AAP), at Filton near Bristol

Photographs: David Thrower, Redshift Media Tel: +44 (0) 845 071 1055