Young Minds: Designing a Collaborative Space
In each edition of The Occupier, we showcase a project that encapsulates the breadth of service that the DeVono Cresa Group can provide. Here we take a look at the exciting work we undertook supporting Young Minds, which started with DeVono Cresa acquiring their new site, through to design and fit-out by Dthree.
Young Minds wanted to create a space that truly celebrated what they do and an environment where everyone, including their activists, could be together and feel comfortable. In order to achieve this, Dthree worked closely with the Young Minds team 12 months prior to their move on a workplace consultancy piece to fully understand what they needed from their new workspace. The consultancy consisted of staff engagement surveys, desktop working analysis, furniture audits and a building search analysis. Dthree’s Senior Designer, Jess Willdigg and Project Director, Tom Aird talk to us about their experience working with Young Minds, and how the design enhanced the tenants experience, captured the green agenda, considered the impact of technology and the outcome of the finished product.
HOW DID THE BUILDING INFLUENCE YOUNG MINDS’ WORKING EXPERIENCE?
Tom: The location was key with the staff wanting to remain within close proximity to London Bridge as most employees used this transport hub. It was also key to have good transport links to the Houses of Parliament due to the nature of the charity. We undertook various travel studies to ensure staff happiness and retention was sustained when considering all possible locations.
Jess: We space planned a lot of different spaces, one including a different floor of the building they now occupy, which they fell in love with instantly so when their now occupied floor became available, it was an obvious choice for them. We were then able to start working on the design of the space with them from the very beginning to help them create the perfect work environment for Young Minds with all their established needs accounted for.
WHAT FACTORS WHEN SEARCHING FOR A NEW OFFICE WERE IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG MINDS?
Tom: The key factor in the building search was to enable and encourage the staff to interact more. In their old space, they were split in half (albeit with a connecting corridor) but cross team interaction was minimal and therefore, a problem for Young Minds.
Jess: It was vital that the design of the space enhanced collaborative opportunities amongst the teams. Natural light was also important for their new space as they wanted an open and airy workspace that upon first impression, would instantly create a welcoming atmosphere for all their visitors and activists.
HOW DID DTHREE HELP THEM ACHIEVE THIS?
Tom: A number of test fits and design concepts were carried out across various different spaces in the London Bridge region to stress test and question their brief to ensure the space was exactly what they required now and in the future.
WHAT CONSIDERATION WAS THERE FOR FUTURE OFFICE DEVELOPMENT AND COMPANY GROWTH?
Jess: There is space for expansion regarding fitting in typical desks. As part of the brief we wanted to create a large flexible working breakout space so there is plenty of hot desk options for those that don’t require standard desk space. Weplanned around predicted head counts and designed flexible areas as well as future proofed provisions for expansion desks which will allow plenty of growth opportunities within the space.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS A SUSTAINABLE WORKPLACE FOR YOUNG MINDS?
Tom: It was very important that the environment Young Minds work in promoted wellbeing for not just their staff but also their advocates who spend a large amount of time in the space.
Jess: Wellness was a huge focus point throughout the project, giving the team areas to take a bit of time out for themselves where they could switch off and recharge. By creating a large breakout space, this offers lots of flexibility as well as booths and a quiet room with more privacy, truly supporting the nature of what they do.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE WORKPLACE?
Jess: Being in the construction industry we are aware of the amount of waste that can be generated on sites during projects. We strongly believe as designers and project leaders that it is our responsibility to reduce this where possible and be more conscious as a team and company to improve the industry standard. This ethos was carried out on the Young Minds site both during and after construction.
HOW DID YOU WORK WITH YOUNG MINDS TO ACHIEVE THEIR BUDGET?
Tom: We were appointed early in the process so could design in collaboration with the client right from the get-go. This allowed us to research effectively and de risk the project giving Young Minds cost certainty ahead of site works by working closely with key subcontractors to drive efficiency.
HOW WAS THE GREEN AGENDA USED IN THE DESIGN OF THE SPACE?
Jess: At Dthree, we work with various manufacturers who ensure sustainable design is at the forefront of their products. For example, the carpet we used throughout the space is made from recycled content, the paints we used are all water based so don’t have as many VOC’s in comparison to most commercial paints, the joinery wood is sustainably sourced, and the fabric used is from a British supplier so has a low carbon footprint and made up of natural materials such as wool.
WHAT ARE COMMERCIAL DESIGNERS DOING TO KEEP UP WITH THIS GROWING NEED?
Jess: As a designer, being mindful is vital. It is every designer’s responsibility to be aware of the sustainability elements within their designs and selected products. Understanding what you can do to improve these by researching alternative products where possible and ensuring your client is aware of the improvements that can be made. Today, it is not just designers who are trying to be better, suppliers and manufacturers are also looking to improve their process and product properties, so regardless of your budget there is always something you can do to help ensure a more sustainable approach.
HOW DO YOU THINK DESIGN WILL EVOLVE TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABILITY IN 2020?
Jess: I think design will continue to evolve to support sustainability, with more and more companies looking for new ways to be sustainable in their manufacturing processes and designers becoming more aware and accountable for their designs. Although we have already seen a massive shift in this direction over the last few years, within the next 12 months we will see this continue to grow and filter down to the details of design, for example using clever joints in joinery to minimize the use of glues and adhesives.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS TECHNOLOGY TO YOUNG MINDS AND WHY?
Tom: Technology was vital in ensuring complete flexibility for Young Minds staff. As wellbeing played such a vital role in the design of the new space supporting this by offering complete flexibility for their people, was a must. Enabling their staff to drop in and work wherever they wanted within the space with seamless docking, easy to access WiFi throughout and to connect easily to all AV equipment. Having a better desk set up was also important to the client with specified task chairs and adjustable monitor arms to give their people complete control and flexibility over their own comfort.
HOW WILL THE TECHNOLOGY OF THEIR SPACE HELP YOUNG MINDS GROW AND PROGRESS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Jess: The technology used allows for greater collaboration amongst teams and departments. The staff are no longer tied to a desk, given the differing working environments available to them, which is not only great for supporting wellness in the workplace but will also improve their productivity levels and enhance their company culture across the business.
HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE IN TECHNOLOGY NEEDS IN THE WORKPLACE?
Tom: Workspaces need to be more agile allowing for complete flexibility and agility more than ever. Technology needs to be seamless and intuitive in order to support this.
Jess: Everything needs to be simplified in the workplace – businesses want their staff to be able to just drop in and work without any complications – Technology is what keeps this wheel turning.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU BELIEVE TECHNOLOGY WILL PLAY IN 2020?
Tom: I’m sure VR & AR will play a further role in showcasing design work and furniture I’m sure. Lighting and ventilation will become smarter and more sustainable in the coming years and adjust to the flexing population without human control.
Jess: Technology is still very expensive, so it isn’t always achievable for every client in their budgets. It would be great to see technology become more affordable and therefore accessible over the next 12 months so all businesses can benefit from it without making design sacrifices elsewhere.
HOW WAS THIS PROJECT DIFFERENT TO ANY OTHER YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Tom: The early appointment meant we were able to design alongside the client and our suppliers from the very beginning, which in turn permitted us to provide cost certainty upfront. With more lead in time, contractors could survey multiple times allowing us to increase efficiency in delivery.
Jess: They were a great client to work with and knew exactly what they wanted from their new space due to the challenges they had faced in their previous space. We had a great rapport with them and collaborated well all the way through.
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT IT?
Tom: Seeing the huge shift in culture of the employees to work in a truly bespoke environment to their needs and that of their partners. Young Minds have an employee who occasionally requires a wheelchair and it was the first time she said she felt truly independent in an office because it was well thought-out.
Jess: The people. It was a hugely fulfilling project to be a part of and they were just a great bunch of people to work with which made the process very enjoyable and smooth.
WHAT STANDS OUT MOST TO YOU IN THEIR WORKPLACE AND WHY?
Tom: The collective expression of their culture. Having got to know them over the seven months leading to the project, I really feel it is their home and will help them grow and try different things in the years to come.
Jess: Their personal involvement with the graphics really makes the space feel like Young Minds home rather than a generic office. The involvement with the activists was hugely fulfilling and made it really special.
Visit dthreestudio.co.uk for more information.