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From the Lyons den

Your career

Halcrow's recently revamped London office started life as a Lyons bakery in 1939. Reaction from staff to the refurb has been 'exceedingly good'.

Damian Arnold reports.

LAST YEAR consultant Halcrow reorganised to 'foster closer working' between its staff.

Not content with flashy brochures and powerpoint presentations, Halcrow put its money where its mouth was and transformed its Vine Yard House office in West London under a £2.6M refurb to reflect the new regime.

The honeycomb of cellular single person office walls - in place since the company took over the six storey office in Hammersmith in 1974 - was ripped out and made open plan, boosting capacity from 350 to 410.

The sixties style steel magnolia office partitions have been replaced with open spaces splashed with bright colours, creating an off beat feel. You could be walking around the offices of a trendy architectural partnership or management consultancy.

The brighter colours, modern art in the kitchens, circular book cases and cappuccino steam is not just a cosmetic welcome to the 21st Century. It has changed the atmosphere of the building for the better, says Vineyard House facilities manager Chris Townsend.

'I've noticed that people talk a lot more, ' he says. 'There's much more of a buzz in the building now.

It used to be very, very quiet. As the weeks go by the noise level gets higher and higher. And people take more care of the building than they used to.'

Walking in at street level the revamped reception which 'used to be one desk in front of a glass door' is much wider, topped with a curved ceiling shaped to reflect Halcrow's logo. Visitors can be whisked all of three steps to the firm's brand new coffee shop - a light space where staff can sip cappuccino and watch Sky News on a large plasma screen. 'We don't always have an opportunity to meet colleagues, ' says Townsend. 'I have met people I never knew just sitting down here drinking coffee.'

Townsend's research found that every member of staff wanted a larger workspace than they had previously. There was also a 'huge desire for colour in the building'.

So there is now a different colour on each floor which can also be used as a navigation key for the building. Each floor is now themed as the orange or red floor etc.

The changes have been very well received apart from a few people set in their ways, he adds.

'You can't get everything you want and there are always a people for whom change is difficult. But everyone has more personal space and more access to the kitchens.'

Larger spaces have also made it easier to be flexible about how the office space is used. All the new furniture is standardised making it easy to move around and replace, says Townsend.

It is also easier for visiting staff, collaborators and clients to find a space and work as the kitchen areas on each floor are networked, enabling them to set up laptops.

Visitors can also use one of eight new meeting rooms the revamp has made space for.

Access has been improved for the wheelchair bound to comply with Disability Discrimination Act which will come into force soon.

Fire exits have been widened making the building easier to evacuate in an emergency.

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