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Arthur Andersen Business Consulting is trying for itself, in a recent refurbishment, the same methods that it prescribes for its clients

Taking their own medicine

BY BARRIE EVANS

aabc is in the business of reorganising businesses and, in the process, reorganising their use of space. The company recommends that as firms become increasingly mobile, sometimes individual, sometimes team- based, with flatter organisational hierarchies, and flexible working times, they inhabit a variety of settings rather than a single universal territory. When aabc came to refurbish its own accommodation it needed to be seen to be taking its own medicine.

So, for 880m2 of its sixth floor at 180 The Strand in central London, bdg McColl has facilitated a change for aabc from cellular offices to mostly open-plan areas of shared desks. Partners have vestiges of cellular accommodation, with U-plan offices opening on to the open plan areas. Partners and the admin staff have permanent locations, close to project team information-storage walls. But teams of staff, most of whom are out of the office for more than half the time, have no permanent desks. Desks are bookable daily; lockers provide personal storage.

The only pre-ordained plan elements are the lifts and wcs with adjacent risers. Each floor opens off the lifts, with some breathing space. The first thing you get to is a reception area, then a cafe, and all along the adjacent window wall a sinuous circulation route and work surface provides touch-down workplaces. Sometimes these are used by customers. Workplaces throughout are equipped with connectors for portable computers, as are meeting tables.

Meeting rooms are equipped with computer-driven displays and smart white- boards, the contents of which can be downloaded to portable computers. The main three meeting rooms are in Edward de Bono colours - red to energise, green for creativity/calm, blue for concentration. And at one end of the floor is a 'chaos' area which a project team can make its own for a few days or weeks. At the other end is a quiet area for individual work where mobile phones are banned.

Air inlet is from existing fan-coil units under windows. Air outlet is at column heads and at a change of ceiling level above the circulation route. Lighting comprises 350 lux background illumination and task lights on desks. Presence detectors control light switching outside the main working hours.

Nobody claims that this is a universal solution. Measures of success for aabc are the generally very positive response to a post-change staff survey, the fact that a floor that used to accommodate 70 people now accommodates 195, and that staff are now prepared to bring their clients into the office to show them what can be done. Other parts of aabc are expected to take up parts of this space-organising vocabulary.

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