John Robertson Architects completes design of new Skanska regional HQ offices in City of London

John Robertson Architects (JRA) has finished a major refurbishment programme on behalf of Skanska at 51 Moorgate, London. The premises will provide the world-leading project development and construction group with a new regional headquarters for its London projects, as well as offering additional sustainable Grade A office space to other occupiers.

The building comprises a total of 45,000 sq ft (4,180 sq m) of office space across eight levels. This includes the addition of a floor on the top of the building, increasing the original internal area by 12 per cent and extending the existing mansard roof. The upper floors are set back from the masonry façade, while the mansard roof profile has been retained to reduce its impact upon the existing Moorgate street views. The refurbished mansard and dormer windows have been re-clad in a natural metal finish, softening the elevation of the building and providing an addition that is both contemporary and sympathetic to the surrounding mansard forms.

Approximately 130 Skanska employees work on the lower ground, first and second floors. Their space – which includes 14 meeting rooms – can accommodate up to 200 people when fully occupied, including external visitors, Skanska site-based staff or staff from head office.

Angela St Clair-Ford, Project Director, John Robertson Architects, says: “Our design is aimed at creating a ‘family feeling’ in the office, reflecting Skanska’s established approach in its offices in Sweden (Malmö and Stockholm). Employees from different parts of the company are encouraged by agile working methods, rather than by hotdesking, in the spaces where they need to work. In addition, the lower ground floor space provides an area for staff to socialise during breaks, fostering a strong collaborative culture. Bid spaces on the office floors allow project teams from different disciplines – construction, cementation (piling and ground engineering), logistics, and M&E – to meet and share knowledge and expertise with colleagues.”

The remaining upper floors are let to other occupiers, with a coffee shop – operated by Benugo – on the ground floor. JRA undertook the base build, refurbishing the original building by creating new elevations on both Moorgate and Coleman Street. This included introducing floor-to-ceiling windows to fulfil BCO standards and replacing obsolete building services. Over 44 spaces for cycles, 38 lockers and six showers are provided for users of the building. The practice worked closely with Skanska’s in-house team, including Nick Baker, who acted as the project lead within Skanska, and Harvey Francis, Executive VP, who led Skanska’s steering committee to design the new offices. JRA’s design represents a response to Skanska’s desire to create spaces more akin to ‘integrated neighbourhoods’ rather than distinct clusters of desks that only serve defined parts of the company’s business.

Nick Baker, tenant project lead, Skanska, says: “JRA’s design has given us a modern, sustainable and healthy workplace where people and businesses can thrive. By the middle of the 2010s, we were facing the challenge of how to consolidate and grow our London presence in a way which offered both economies of scale and provided a working environment that addressed the company’s various commercial and cultural requirements. At 51 Moorgate, the redesign is already allowing us to work in a far more joined-up way than had previously been possible through a carefully considered arrangement of spaces and by the introduction of new meeting areas – many of them informal – where staff can interact.”

51 Moorgate in the City of London is an office building that originally dates back to the 1980s. A long-leasehold interest was acquired by Skanska in 2015. JRA’s refurbishment project reused the existing foundations, structural frame and façade to the internal courtyards of the building. Coleman Street Buildings runs through the ground floor connecting Moorgate to Coleman Street itself, typifying the historic street pattern of the City. The decision to retain the existing structure at an early stage has resulted in an estimated saving of approximately 43 per cent of the total carbon emissions across the life of the building compared to a newbuild of a similar scale.

The brief places the concept of ‘wellbeing’ at the centre of the refurbishment, and JRA’s approach was partly shaped by the ‘WELL’ standard to incorporate measures that improve user experience and health. The building aspires to be one of the first in the UK to achieve certification to Version 2 of the WELL Building Standard, alongside BREEAM ‘Excellent’. For example, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) have not been used in any of the specified materials and furniture elements of the project; filtration of fresh air has been enhanced to reduce the levels of pollutants and particles being drawn into the building from external sources; and the carpets (from the Interface Human Nature collection) are made of over 80 per cent recycled materials.

The design incorporates living walls, break-out spaces, dining areas, cycle facilities and kitchenettes on each floor, as well as a dedicated technology-free ‘wellbeing room’. These spaces have been enriched by a Scandinavian-inspired natural colour palette and material choice.

A key part of JRA’s design has been to introduce more communal spaces for people to meet, including the coffee shop as part of the ground floor reception area and informal seating and break-out spaces on the lower ground floor. The design team also carried out space utilisation and occupational studies to determine the final layouts, allowing the introduction of fully-agile working to the office floors. The designs incorporate a number of features specific to Skanska and its business functions, such as PPE rooms, collaboration areas, and wayfinding and detailing inspired by the company’s branding.

Nick Baker continues: “We are finding it a lot easier to configure different project teams, some of which comprise 20 or more people and encourage better cross-team working – something which was not easy previously when our London staff were physically located in three different buildings. We are encouraged by the extremely positive response we have had from employees who have relocated to 51 Moorgate, many of whom have commented on the open and light spaces and the way in which it helps to encourage meetings with new colleagues.”

A new staircase feature with a ‘green wall’ has been introduced to link the ground and lower ground floors and provide direct access to the Skanska-dedicated reception area for external visitors and access to the client meeting room suites, enhancing the flow of the arrival experience rather than immediately directing visitors into a lift and out onto an office floorplate. This has created a strong visual focus for employees and visitors and helped to integrate the ground and lower ground floors of the building with an improved connection.

Angela St Clair-Ford continues: “Our approach has been to collaborate closely with Skanska at all stages of this project to ensure the design is aligned with the company’s long-term objectives for establishing and developing a regional headquarters. The design also provides built-in flexibility to reconfigure parts of floors to enable the opportunity to establish and manage large teams for major new projects at short notice, if necessary.”