British Airways' architect-designed headquarters is producing savings of £15 million a year through increased productivity, reduced staff turnover and resulted in less sick leave, according to research being cited as an example in the latest attempt to 'prove' design's worth.
The substantial savings, detailed in a study written by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's incoming chief executive, John Rouse, are a major boost for the profession which is growing increasingly eager for hard evidence of the benefit of using architects.
As part of Rouse's analysis of how companies measure the costs and benefits of architecture and design when investing in their own buildings, BA revealed that the savings came on a £200 million investment in its Niels Torp-designed headquarters at Heathrow. But BA was the only company among 10 studied by Rouse to put a cash value on the benefit of using architect-designed buildings.A spokesman for Boots the Chemist, which has a new DEGW-designed extension in Beeston, said: 'if you compare the cost of this development against market value, it doesn't wash its face'. Computer games developer Rare also said that financial benefits are limited, particularly when procuring a bespoke headquarters.
'It is all about enhancing the creative excellence of the company . . . not that the company doesn't care about end value but it is secondary, ' its spokesman said. Seven out of 10 said that the cost of their building exceeded its current balance sheet value. Instead the value of design is being found elsewhere by companies, Rouse found.
'Occupiers are becoming increasingly demanding and there is increasing recognition of other values such as environmental governance, corporate identity and the ability of organisations to undergo change, ' he said.
He added that the growing existence of corporate design champions such as Selfridges' chief executive, Vittorio Radice (AJ 6.7.00) and corporate change are the key factors which encourage businesses to invest in architecture.
In a more sinister example of a corporate body using a building to improve its performance, US personal finance company, Capital One, traced staff movements through its offices by using swipe card technology. It found that after installing games rooms some workers took more breaks but they also increased working time at their desks by two hours, for which they were not paid.
Rouse's research w ill be presented in full at the RIBA on 14 November. He will be taking up his post as the chief executive of CABE on 2 October.