Eversheds, the United Kingdom’s largest law firm, sought a new London headquarters that would further elevate its ranking as one of the country’s top firms. In addition the new headquarters had to respond to the clients’ requirements for more efficient, 24/7 service and better value for fees. To accomplish this goal, the 15,600-sq.-m., eight-story headquarters needed to support the firm’s client-centric approach, promote open communication and collaboration, provide maximum flexibility with infrastructure to support future technology needs, and improve business efficiency.
All this needed to be accomplished with a design that also supported Eversheds’ commitment to environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. “We set a value proposition for the project based on initial workshops: To create a workplace that would enhance Evershed’s ability to attract new talent, improve the firm’s client experience, and engender a culture of sustainability,” says Woods Bagot principal Simon Pole
The international design firm with offices in Australia, Asia, Europe, and most recently, North America, conducted global research on work patterns and preferences within law offices, and found that a hybrid workspace supported by mobile technologies would provide many advantages over traditional private offices or typical open plan layouts. As a result, a flexible design challenges the layout of the traditional law office with studios that are easily reconfigured to accommodate two to six people, allowing teams of lawyers to collaborate on projects where sharing of information and knowledge is critical.
“The design of the hybrid workpoints and surrounding spaces allows staff to work flexibly and in areas that support their daily functions,” explains Pole. “The modern lawyer requires adaptability to changing work modes. Therefore we provided a spectrum of environments from quiet, immersive, and concentrated through to team working, collaborative, dynamic space.” This team environment also increases valuable interaction between trainees, partners, and associates, accelerating the transfer of knowledge to the new generation and thus improving staff satisfaction, recruitment, and retention.
The studios are set around the perimeter of each floor to maximize daylight, and are defined by a combination of solid panel workstations and translucent panes, providing high visibility, acoustic privacy, and the flexibility of a furniture system. With such an unconventional plan, client buy-in was key to the success of the project. A three-year project schedule allowed the design team to develop a comprehensive change management program that tested and refined the hybrid studio model, provided advanced training, and ultimately built support for the new model among staff and clients.
“Good things come to those who wait,” says Cornelius Medvei, a senior partner in the London office of Eversheds. “A solution as specific as this requires careful planning, clear vision, open communication, collective thinking, flat hierarchy, trust, and a business willing to ignore the fear of going against the flow.”In addition to featuring a robust infrastructure to support current and future technology, the design for Eversheds achieved a BREEAM Excellent sustainability rating—which is the highest possible under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method—with a multi-pronged strategy, including an active, chilled-beam system that integrates overhead lighting and is linked to an intelligent building management system that reduces operating and maintenance costs while improving indoor air quality. Other sustainable features include one of the largest green roofs in London; locally sourced materials, furnishings, and finishes; storage, shower, and repair facilities for bicycle commuters; a comprehensive recycling program; and the reinstatement of a public courtyard with an adjacent café.
“One significant aspect of the Eversheds project was that it was the first project under the BREEAM rating system to be elevated from a ‘Very Good’ base building to an ‘Excellent’ rating through intervention of the fitout,” notes Pole. “Plus it was the first commercial property in the world to be fully certified under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).”
Design firm: Woods Bagot
Project Team: Tom Herron, Rebecca Ransley, Fiona Chandler, Simon Evans, Sarah Kay, Simon Pole