Manchester’s Office Market: How do we make a building work for its occupiers? Is Occupier-Led Design the way forward?

Thursday, 28th February 2019

Guest blog by Ian Mayhew from Landmark, Manchester

Manchester’s thriving business community, and in particular the central business district in St Peter’s Square, is on the up. Today’s occupiers quite rightly have high expectations from their office space as the war for talent, in terms of companies seeking to attract and retain the very best employees, shows no signs of waning.  To help businesses to attract and retain gifted employees, a developer needs to be forward thinking in terms of the space it creates and amenities it can offer its occupiers.

When formulating the concept for Landmark, St Peter’s Square, Manchester, which is one of only two new-build office developments to complete in Manchester City Centre this year, we chose to use Occupier-Led Design which presents a great opportunity for us to lead by example.

The brief in its most simplistic form was to unite aesthetics with practical uses to deliver a high quality designed, sustainable, tech-enabled building into which an occupier can enter and essentially ‘plug and play’. Meeting the BREEAM Excellent criteria and setting an EPC ‘A’ target rating was a natural start and the Platinum WiredScore accreditation and spectrum of connectivity management features that have followed on will ensure that all potential occupiers can move in and start work immediately with ease.Resilient digital connectivity is essential for businesses today and therefore the technological infrastructure of Landmark has played an important role in the design and construction of this property.

Occupier-Led Design is often underestimated or at times overlooked entirely when it comes to designing, constructing and bringing to market office developments but if we saw more developments built with this in mind, we would see schemes brought to life that ticked many boxes for businesses.

When completed in summer 2019, Landmark will provide 180,000 sq ft of office space across 14 floorsof next generation office space above two basement levels. Designed for people and built with well-being at its heart, the Occupier-Led Design specifications include an offset core to enable not only large floorplates of circa 14,000 sq ft at 1.8sq m occupational density but also maximum flexibility and will be virtually column free.

With excellent natural light from all elevations and the majority of floors benefitting from extensive views over the Manchester sky-line, our occupiers will experience significant improvements in productivity and better functioning memory*.  We are also including “soft-spots” in the concrete slabs in two locations to enable internal staircases to be installed between floors for occupiers of multiple floors, if required, promoting communication and collaboration amongst employees.

The large and essentially column free floor plates will ensure the space is cost effective to fit out and provides flexibility for different workstyles – its efficiencies enable more workstations to be included within a given amount of workspace whilst offering generous proportions to allow for the introduction of break out and collaboration areas.  The building’s mechanical and electrical equipment on each floor has been zoned affording businesses with flexibility in terms of the ability to subdivide floors and “hive off” surplus space.

Sustainability has moved up the corporate agenda in recent years.  We acknowledge that companies want to occupy buildings that mitigate the impact on the environment.  From the solar panels on the roof generating on-site electricity, electric car charging points in the basement car park, LG7 compliant LED lighting with automatic sensors, high performance glazing minimising solar gains,automatic sensor taps, the adoption of low carbon technologies in the mechanical and electrical systems, on-site recycling facilities, to the timber used in the construction being sourced from Forest Stewardship Council compliant suppliers,  Landmark’s environmental credentials are a key element of the design.

It is important to provide building amenity and at Landmark we have “gym quality” showers and changing rooms and generous bicycle storage facilities for cyclists.  Free Wi-Fi will be available in the common parts, and we are currently reviewing options for introducing a coffee / sandwich shop for occupants of the building only.

We also listened carefully to our leasing agents who stressed the importance of making an entrance with the reception. Occupiers want to feel a sense of arrival for their staff and also their visitors to the building so having an impactful entrance remains high on the agenda and played a part in our creation of a high quality double-height reception with 90ft glazed frontage.

With the building able to accommodate a wide cross section of organisations to suit all requirements from ‘branch’ and regional use to major headquarters space, Landmark will provide the highest quality from the inside out, all with the next generation occupier in mind.

Barings’ Landmark team includes; Castlebrooke Investments as development manager, award-winning architects Squire & Partners, acclaimed lead contractor Bowmer & Kirkland, Gardiner and Theobald as project manager and leasing agents CBRE and Colliers International.