BT Group is a leading multinational telecommunications services provider with a rich history spanning nearly two centuries, dating back to the telegraphy revolution; currently employing over 100,000 people, working with private customers, businesses and governments, while generating more than 20 billion pounds in revenue in 2022. In 2019, the company announced that it would be moving its global headquarters from a site adjacent to St Paul’s cathedral to a purpose built new office space in Aldgate.
The Better Workplace Programme
In November 2021, One Braham construction started on site; located in Aldgate, London, the 344,445-square-foot (32,000-square-metre) 18-storey site is home to 3,500 people representing a range of business units. The approach was planned and developed as part of BT Group’s major transformation initiative — The Better Workplace Programme, aiming to create inspiring buildings to help support social, networking and cultural benefits. Another objective for BT Group was to prioritize work-life balance; help improve its corporate sustainability profile as part of the Drive to Net Zero effort; reduce maintenance costs and increase productivity. Due to be completed by 2024, this initiative, one of the biggest of its kind in the U.K., involves more than 300 BT Group offices being consolidated into around 30 hubs located across the country, with One Braham being the first new build.
Between September 2020 and September 2021, HDR provided holistic building engineering services at One Braham, including: structural; mechanical, electrical and public health; planning; consulting; sustainability; resiliency; project delivery; building data management; control systems; smart buildings and information communications technology; and additionally supporting specialist work on lighting and acoustic engineering. Our team also led on the fire and life safety design; including detailed engineering design for the location of fire alarms, detectors and sprinklers, with the structural team leading on adding further staircases to provide the best possible break points in case of a fire emergency. We also extended the original building management system to include core engineering services.
BT Group handpicked HDR to be involved at a very early stage, enabling the project teams to collaborate closely with the base build team; seamlessly transitioning from the shell and core phase to CAT A and subsequently CAT B Fit-Outs. As we had full oversight of the project, HDR embraced a comprehensive approach to create efficiencies thus helping the client to save time and resources. The company had asked that the services be exposed to create an industrial style aesthetic and therefore our experts decided to progress shell and core directly to CAT B Fit-Out, therefore not proceeding to CAT A which would require installing the ceilings and subsequently eliminating the stripping back stage.
Additionally, the fit-out solution was designed in phases in order for the project to be released floor by floor, starting with the delivery of the first two levels, Client Showcase and Lab and Testing areas.
In accordance with The Better Workplace Programme, the client brief required a modern and future-proofed building, strictly prioritizing its occupants at every design decision and empowering staff to choose how they use the space. The superstructure features collaboration, social and quiet areas, an auditorium, multifaith and contemplation rooms, two spacious terraces on floors 15 and 17, a vast atrium on floors 17 and 18 with an abundance of natural light and foliage, retail spaces on the ground floor, amenities including a café and a restaurant, as well as facilities such as showers, bike storage and changing rooms.
Agile Flexible Working Solutions
The building’s layout is a non-typical office focusing less on conventional workstations and more on agile flexible working solutions, providing environments for colleagues to connect and collaborate. This includes comfortable and stylish collaborative workspaces and futuristic meeting places, supporting a mix of in-person and virtual attendance, as well as booths, benches, hot-desks, sofas and spaces for work, relaxation and socializing. Overall, One Braham provides BT Group’s staff with a distinctive agile work environment and allows the company to implement its flexible Smart Working policy encouraging colleagues to decide how they divide time between home and office.
HDR improved the indoor air quality through minimizing sources of air pollution achieved by meticulous material specification; this was emphasized in the auditorium where large numbers of people would congregate, thus requiring careful design ensuring quality, air mobility and utilizing air from other areas of the floorplate in case of full occupancy. We harnessed specialist third party acoustic data to inform services design and planning, to help minimise noise from exposed services specified by the architect as one of the key aesthetic features of the building. Additionally, given the scale and the sheer amount of structural glazing, we opted for installing a series of high-quality blinds to limit glare at workstations and provide visual comfort. HDR also worked alongside a specialist lighting consultant in order to help create feature lighting in the office.
Drive to Net Zero
BT Group and HDR cooperated closely from the project’s inception to help achieve Drive to Net Zero targets. The building had already achieved the BREEAM Excellent certification at the base build stage and it was our responsibility to follow the same sustainable design blueprint throughout the rest of the project, including material specification, energy efficiency and lighting design.
Waste minimization was paramount throughout the development. In a formidable effort, 99% of the waste generated during the fit-out of One Braham was recycled as opposed to being sent to landfill. Water consumption reduction was achieved through utilizing rainwater harvesting systems on the roof, making best use of the typical British weather, along with greywater systems, which re-use certain types of wastewaters for flushing and irrigation. The site achieved an Energy Performance Certificate B rating. According to data, only 20% of U.K.’s major office developments managed to achieve one of the two top EPC ratings of A or B; to put this into perspective, as outlined in the 2020 Energy white paper from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the non-domestic, private rented sector Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards legal requirement is anticipated to rise from EPC E to EPC B by 2030.
The 17th floor was originally planned as a traditional suite for the CEO, however, this was later converted to a modern management suite. This significant alteration, which included wall reconfiguration, was made possible through future-proofing within the original CAT B design that facilitated rearrangements: the location of the fan coil units could easily be configured to match the new layout; raised floors were implemented, meaning connection points could be relocated on the floorplate; sophisticated ICT solutions were employed, including a broad and secure wi-fi network that could be accessed at any point within the building. Our team has created a fully flexible and resilient building which the client can adapt freely, according to ever evolving business needs; a feature of crucial importance in a world navigating a post-pandemic landscape.
HDR responded positively to the dramatic impact of COVID-19 and efficiently incorporated remote work during tender and initial design stages, subsequently modifying the engineering aspect of One Braham to reflect the forward-thinking, agile flexible working approach adopted by BT Group in anticipation of the post-pandemic return-to-office initiative.
Throughout the project, HDR utilised a 3D Revit BIM model provided by the shell and core team and added the design for both CAT A and CAT B Fit-Outs to provide a comprehensive source of up-to-date information on the progress of works, accessible to all parties. In the spirit of collaboration and transparency, the model was used in biweekly virtual meetings with the various project teams as well as the client; this approach was further improved using laser technology, eventually enabling supplementary enhancements of the duct work engineering design.
As part of The Better Workplace Programme, HDR is also delivering two other projects for BT Group, Assembly Bristol and Riverside Tower, Belfast, employing shared design principles and best practice from One Braham. This effort is underpinned by the trusted professional relationship HDR has nurtured with BT Group on a global scale over the past 15 years, having worked across a portfolio of successful developments.
One Braham is the culmination of the employee-centred ethos of The Better Workplace Programme and a vivid example of how a major organisation can proactively focus on recruitment and retention of the best talent and simultaneously deliver on its ambitious sustainability goals. HDR has exceeded expectations by designing and delivering a bespoke building engineering services solution, providing the client’s staff with the highest quality work environment whilst fully embracing a contemporary and stylish design; enabling BT Group to become a trailblazer in the field of employee wellness initiatives and work-life balance.