North Somerset Council

Following an in depth review of the Council’s working systems, led by Alison White, of workplace and change management consultants PLACEmaking, the Council committed to reducing and rationalising its property estate. This involved shifting its staff’s cultural expectations of property and working environments and delivering a strategy where occupiers are ‘users’ not ‘owners’ of space. By operating and using a serviced-office-style environment, with the opportunity to share space and ICT assets, the Council and its strategic partners set about co-locating and integrating staff and resources. Nigel Ashton, Leader of the Council said ‘By bringing council teams together at the Town Hall and at Castlewood, and sharing our offices with partners, we will realise cost efficiencies within two years. More importantly, having staff under the same roof will mean we can work smarter and be more efficient and effective.’

Kinnarps worked closely with Agilisys and PLACEmaking to ensure that the furniture specified for Castlewood contributed to the significant property cost savings required. With the reduction from 18 to 2 buildings, the office floor space has been reduced by practically half, and a key aspect of the new workplace strategy is to no longer to occupy cellular offices or own desks. Instead the workspace is provided on a 7:10 desk to staff ratio. Space economy was also was achieved by replacing all redundant furniture and introducing simple modules in clusters and straight runs of desks. Kinnarps liaised with NSC’s senior architectural technician Phil Brockbank, to ensure that the Series T furniture configuration was planned to achieve this ratio effectively and worked within the constraints of accommodating cable boxes and the floor panels of a new, more environmentally responsible air conditioning system.

As desks are now shared, there was a move away from under-desk pedestals to acoustically designed ‘My Space’ lockers from Kinnarps’s storage partner Bisley, which allow personal items to be stored nearby. The workspaces were also configured with gaps between opposing runs of desks, to facilitate cable trays, keeping desks clear of clutter and again making it easier for users to be mobile.

Clearly, so many changes to the Council staff’s established ways of working required their understanding and co-operation, so the Council installed a model office at the Weston-super-Mare site. This allowed staff to experience the proposed workplace solution first hand and allowed the team to gather their feedback, which was then incorporated into the planning process.

In order to meet and exceed the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, high quality, 6120 series, synchronized task chairs were supplied to compliment the Council’s existing stock and 5% of the desks chosen were electronically height adjustable Series T sit /stand units, allowing them also to be used by wheelchair users and those who need to work standing up.

As well as meeting staff needs and helping to facilitate improvements to their ways of working, Kinnarps was briefed to furnish both public and multi use areas of Castlewood with furniture that was welcoming, flexible and durable. A ground floor area, to the rear of reception, is designed to operate as a break out area, a location for ad hoc meetings and a visitor waiting area. It also serves as part of a stand alone unit for consultative public meetings, which has its own facilities and can be shut off to avoid the costs of keeping the whole building open for functions outside office hours.

Another cost saving has been achieved through a move from providing in-house catering and cafeteria facilities to installing beverage and snack vending machines, with staff either bringing their own packed lunch or using a visiting sandwich delivery service. Kinnarps has furnished a light and bright refectory area creating a pleasant social space that encourages staff away from eating at their desks.

Phil Brockbank explains how the furniture supplied by Kinnarps is helping the Council to meet its cost efficiency goals. ‘We were given the task of working the new building as hard as we could and much of our existing furniture simply wouldn’t have allowed us to that. We wanted to free up space through ratio working and we needed to create an environment that was both inspiring for our own people and attractive enough to encourage third parties to rent space from us. Having a combination of space-saving and flexible furniture helps us not only to save money on our own property needs, but gives us a new revenue stream in the form of attractive, sub let-able office space.’ He concludes: ‘Getting Castlewood up and running, as quickly as possible, has been a massive challenge. We couldn’t have possibly achieved what we have without the services of reliable, efficient suppliers like Kinnarps, who understood what we were up against and moved quickly to get the job done on budget and to deadline.’

Project Facts

Year: 2011
Client: North Somerset Council
Location: Weston-super-mare

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