View from the level 5 bridge at Arup's Sydney Office in Barrack Place; View from the level 5 bridge at Arup's Sydney Office in Barrack Place;

Workplaces for our own, by our own

Arup in Australasia is on the move both geographically and metaphorically, into our new Arup-inspired, performance-enhancing workplaces in three locations across two countries.

Within a month, we’ve moved into Barrack Place in Sydney, to the Sky Park at One Melbourne Quarter and to Frasers Tower in Singapore. This is more than half of our workforce in Australasia – no small feat, and three great opportunities.  

 As a designer, creating your own workplace is like a dream come true – with a few challenges! We have all had ideas, but we have been united behind a common purpose –  to create environments that will enable us to perform at our very best while reflecting what our firm is about: design-led, socially responsible, inclusive to all and a great place to work.  

After 18 years in the same premises in Sydney, 15 in Melbourne and 11 in Singapore, it was time to rethink how we wished to work and how our workplaces could be better designed to enable that. We started this journey over five years ago. It was not only a business imperative – we were fast growing out of our existing spaces and the leases were all due to expire in late 2018 – it was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We could be designer and engineer of both new buildings and workspaces in Sydney and Melbourne, but really ‘walk the talk’ on best-practice ‘total design’, sustainability and wellbeing.

Working with HASSELL, long-time collaborators and workplace specialists, we created a set of Workplace Guidelines to guide the process of designing, delivering and measuring the success of all Arup workplace projects. It was a dynamic process of interviews, staff surveys, workplace workshops and global benchmarking. Together, we unpacked our culture, values, our preferences and differences.  

The final Guidelines have shaped the design of Perth – our first major office move, the refresh of Brisbane, Auckland and Townsville, as well as the new Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore offices.

In the interim, we trialled ideas. In Sydney, we did some fit outs in our existing Kent St space to explore and test what worked best, feeding reflections back into the design process. The ‘Workshop’ with its bare concrete floors, freeform adaptable space and spirit of openness and transparency towards visitors of Arup, is one aspect that we have carried through to Barrack Place.

My role has been to ensure that the core themes are incorporated, while encouraging each office to reflect its own character, building, people and the market it operates within. So, they all look and feel different but that’s the Arup way: we are not a rules-based sort of firm, we champion our independent spirit. 

In line with the feedback from our people – that they wanted to work much more with clients and work more collaboratively – our new spaces have been designed for side-by-side iterative work, be it through real-time modelling or other forms of co-design with clients. There are a variety of spaces, from experimental to specialist – Lighting Labs, SoundLabs, Maker spaces, and an Immersion Lab in Singapore.

This Immersion Lab uniquely integrates a Lighting Lab and SoundLab with real-time auralisation, into a virtual reality environment. This bespoke multi-sensory space turns the review process of design into an ‘experience’. This is particularly helpful in the Republic where people are often speaking in a second language, bridging possible differences in communication. All these spaces have been designed to give clients a deeper experience of the design process, and enable our people to research and experiment with new technologies and approaches to design. 

The Arup University space in Arup's Sydney office The Arup University space in Arup's Sydney office

We decided to go with ‘neighbourhoods’ so people can sit within a community of their sector or function group, wherever it best suits the task. There are diverse spaces to support a multitude of different working styles, group sizes and levels of focus. Workspace is clearly zoned into noisy, buzzy, hushed and silent areas, rich in furniture options from fixed standing, sit-to-stand desks to booths and mobile furniture. 

All workplaces have exceptional amenity, daylight, indoor air quality, greening of spaces, comfort, and physical and digital connectivity. There are end-of-trip-facilities for active transport commuters and specialised rooms for nursing mothers, prayer, rest and meditation. In Sydney and Melbourne, atriums or voids with internal staircases create ‘socially active’ central cores to encourage exercise and bump+spark interactions. 

The first day at Arup's new Sydney office at Barrack Place
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Barrack Place is the first building in Australia to be awarded Gold WELL precertification for core and shell; Melbourne’s 13-level building is targeting a 6-star Green Star rating and a 5 star NABERS Energy rating. Similarly, in Singapore, we are one of the first offices to achieve the Platinum rating in the Green Mark for Healthier Workplaces scheme. 

We have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020 across all the region’s offices, in five countries. Sydney and Melbourne are making a head start sourcing 100% renewable energy for light and power. 

A day at Arup's new office at One Melbourne Quarter
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I feel proud of the journey that we have taken with our people over the last five years: no doubt, it will prove a rewarding investment of time, talent and energy. 

Early feedback is that our new workplaces are enjoyable, energetic and ‘connected’ –  we do our best work when we come together as one Arup across disciplines and sectors. 

They are each unique, and distinctively ‘Arup’. They are helping people be more creative and productive, work more comfortably and co-create with clients in new and interesting ways. They express a culture of high purpose and high performance – values I’m already proud to call ‘distinctively Arup’.