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Sun proves first problem at Toyota's £26m head office

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Receptionists at Toyota's new Sheppard Robsondesigned £26 million head office in Epsom, Surrey, are having to don sunglasses because of the strength of sunlight entering the building.

'They have been complaining about the sun, ' said Sheppard Robson project architect Tim Evans. 'We're looking at various solutions.'

The problem is in the 'rotunda' wing of the building, a glass-roofed circular entrance area with a south-facing reception desk. Around noon, the strength of the sunlight makes life uncomfortable for those on duty, forcing them to wear sunglasses.

The problem is compounded by glare from the white floor and pale concrete walls.

Solutions being considered include fixing a coloured film across the glass roof or installing a gauze filter. It might also be necessary to cover the stone floor with carpet to eliminate the glare.

Staff have been moving into the building over the past month, but the office was officially handed over last week. Sheppard Robson has been commissioned to undertake a 'post-occupancy analysis' over the next two months to identify glitches and examine how the building is being used.

The sunlight problem is being tackled as a priority, but the study will also look at staff movement and working patterns.

The building has been designed with a range of formal and informal spaces, allowing employees to work where they wish - such as conventional open-plan floorplates, a canteen showing MTV, cosy 'touch-down' areas and even an external terrace. Computer sockets have been installed throughout the building, allowing staff to work from their laptops.

Now the practice will wait to see if Toyota's staff are liberated enough to actually use the building in this way - if some spaces are under-used they will be turned over to other users, farming them out to project teams that need temporary space, for example.

'We've designed the building to be flexible enough to accommodate Toyota's existing workstyle, but also to allow it to evolve into something quite different, ' said Evans.

'We need to find out what works and what doesn't to try and keep the building as fresh and alive for as long as possible.'

The Barton Willmore Partnership has completed a new headquarters building for one of Toyota's rivals, Honda UK. The £9.7 million, 10,000m 2building near Heathrow Airport was completed within 18 months.

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