British Land's flexible workspace company, Storey, reveals a new sustainability-focused building in Haggerston
In the east-London creative hub of Haggerston, overlooking the calm waters of Regent’s Canal, lies the latest building in the Storey group: 6 Orsman Road. Well placed in a market that can sometimes feel overcrowded, Storey – British Land’s flexible workspace company – has managed to find a niche between adaptable working spaces and long-term office lets, offering its clients flexibility and growth, as well as the opportunity to put their own stamp on their space.
Spread across five floors and comprising 34,000 square foot, 6 Orsman Road has been built using steel frames and cross-laminated timber (CLT) and is designed to enhance productivity and client wellbeing. Behind the design of 6 Orsman Road is locally based architectural practice Waugh Thistleton Architects, a studio with an international reputation in environmentally sustainable design.
Waugh Thistleton has pioneered the use of sustainable materials for flexible offices, including using CLT at scale. This latest project is no exception, with its design aligning to the core principles of sustainability; throughout the design process there has also been a focus on reducing environmental impact by reusing or recycling materials where possible. “We really liked Waugh Thistleton as a practice,” says Stewart Whiting, Head of Product at Storey. “Their approach to sustainability and how they look at the CLT; they look at flexibility in buildings in a way that aligns with how Storey thinks about flexibility.”
Exposed internally at 6 Orsman Road, the CLT in the building minimises the number of finishes used on the structure, while offcuts have been repurposed to make furniture that will be used throughout the building. Compared to concrete and steel, a CLT structure can reduce a building’s impact on the environment; the production of the fascinating material requires much less water and energy to manufacture.
Within 6 Orsman Road, there is a range of different workspaces, including customisable private offices, and shared spaces that have been designed with productivity in mind. Within the common areas, there are collections of meeting rooms and soft seating areas, an outdoor roof terrace, and a café on the ground floor that serves locally sourced, healthy food.
“The top floor will have a long table to work along, a lounge space for casual meetings, and individual quiet areas where you can work [while looking at] the view,” says Whiting. “We wanted to give [the top floor] to everyone instead of having it as one office… and having some spill over from individual offices is useful. Equally, we know it’s really good for productivity and wellbeing to have some choice in [working] environment.”
“The terrace outside is a place that companies can eat together, meet and relax,” Whiting continues. “We worked with landscape architects, FFLO, to [figure out] how we could bring some of [the canal] environment up to the roof. The planting also has a purpose – customers within the building can take on one of the planters, grow the product within that, and take it away… it brings companies together in an activity.” As well as edible plants, the bio-diverse roof terrace also features insect boxes and fruit trees.
Storey is known for its unique concept of personalisation within its buildings, and 6 Orsman Road is no different in this regard. Clients that rent space within the building are encouraged to personalise their office, choosing from a comprehensive menu of design-led, highly functional furniture that can be tailored to suit the needs of their particular team. As Whiting mentions, Storey “as a company don’t want to exist at all in our buildings – it’s very much about the companies that are based here.”
Storey’s typical customer is one that has “grown up in a start-up environment but they’ve hit about 20+ people – our average customer size is about 50-100 people,” Whiting explains, discussing the Storey model of flexible private working space. “At that point, they need an element of flexibility – they still don’t want to have to commit to a five year lease, or take six months to kit out a new office space – but they want the feeling of being in their own office and having their own culture and identity, rather than buying into the culture and identity of a co-working operator.”
“We’ve got a system that’s adaptable,” he continues. “We’ll speak to [customers] about how they work as a business and what they want to do from a growth point of view, and then we create the right configuration of enclosed spaces and furniture settings [for them]. We include the things we know people will need as standard – desking and chairs, for example. It’s much better for us to invest in good-quality standing desks that are configurable, and good-quality chairs, and keep them in the building. We worked with Furniture Practice to develop that part of the system.”
“We also consider the amount of space within the floorplan, so it can be divided to be the appropriate size for each customer. Walls can go up to divide the space into two smaller units – you might start off in a smaller unit and move to a larger unit, or a wall might come down to extend the room to twice the size,” Whiting says. “We work really closely with our customers to allow that to happen, and to understand what their requirements are so that they can stay with us. We really see it as flexibility to stay, rather than flexibility to leave.”
Since the beginning of the Storey concept, the company has worked with architecture and planning firm, Gensler, on the design strategy for all of its buildings, discussing how much enclosed space there should be for the offices. For the enclosed spaces within 6 Orsman Road – such as the meeting rooms and phone booths – Storey used Gensler’s data to figure out the needs of the offices.
“[Gensler] have a huge amount of data, which was really useful and quite an interesting process,” says Whiting “[The data] helped us find the right amount of enclosed space, we think. Obviously every company is different, but if we can cater to most of those requirements, it means that it’s a more efficient way of doing it, rather than building out meeting rooms on a case by case basis.”
Everything within 6 Orsman Road has been designed to make clients feel calm, focused, and inspired to work. Throughout the building, the timber surfaces and panels have an acoustic benefit – absorbing sound and improving comfort and security. To develop acoustic guidelines for the building’s internal spaces and ensure productivity in the building isn’t affected by noise, Storey worked closely with prominent acousticians, Sandy Brown.
The designers have also chosen to use natural materials within 6 Orsman Road, including marmoleum tiles and clay finishes. Large windows allow natural daylight into the building, and air-purifying plants have been strategically placed within the collection of offices and shared spaces. Storey is also planning to add photovoltaic cells – a renewable energy source – to the roof of the building..
Located in a prime position in Haggerston, 6 Orsman Road has excellent transport links and cycling routes – including Super Cycle Highway 1, which gives cyclers the chance to be at Liverpool Street or Broadgate in eight minutes. As well as office space within 6 Orsman Road, those renting within the Storey group have access to the Storey Club, which is currently at the company’s Four Kingdom Street site in Paddington. The Storey Club, says Whiting, “provides larger amenities like bigger events spaces – for up to 200 – which we don’t need in every building. For example, if you’ve got an investor day or a big conference that you want to put on, you’ve got space to do that.”
Otherwise, amenities within 6 Orsman Road include the shared terrace and private terraces in certain offices; cycle and shower facilities; and the café and shared space on the ground floor, which overlooks Regent’s Canal. “We wanted to give the space that overlooks the canal back to the group as well, rather than just an office, so that everyone can enjoy the view,” Whiting mentions. “The natural material everywhere and the connection to the water make a difference to the feel of the building... we know that for companies of our size, it makes sense to share.”