Sheppard Robson profiled in OnOffice Magazine

18th August 2015

OnOffice magazine have selected Sheppard Robson's Siemens Headquarters as one of their most memorable front cover stories. The magazine interviewed Alan Shingler about how working at Masdar City has influenced Sheppard Robson's work and how the practice's work is evolving.

1. How did the Siemens HQ influence your following work?

Working at Masdar City– with its extreme climate, stringent KPIs and design savvy occupiers – put issues of efficiency and performance into acute focus. These unique conditions gave our design team the opportunity to deliver the LEED Platinum Siemens Middle East Headquarters, an exemplar building and process that we used to developed skills that we use across our UK projects.

For example, on Siemens we used parametric computer software to find a façade solution that allowed maximum daylight into the buildings without any direct sunlight hitting the glass. Although the UK does not have a temperature highs anywhere near that of Abu Dhabi, the concept of using computer modelling to test designs at the early concept stages is a skill that was honed by working within the harsh climate of Abu Dhabi.

2. How has your work evolved since then? What have been the major practice landmarks?

We are very interested in the performance and efficiency of the built environment and help rather than hinder creating visually powerful buildings.

We are continuing to learn from the Siemens project as the data on the building’s performance is still being collated. The design team recently received the first year’s energy monitoring results from the project. The data shows that the building is hitting its efficiency targets, reducing energy consumption by 63 per cent and water by 52 per cent, when compared with a standard office building in the region.

We are interested in monitoring how a building performs over its lifespans rather than thinking our job is done when the project reaches Practical Completion. We are now using technology by Minimise to track our energy use in our London office, with a view increasing efficiencies in our own workplace.

3. How do you think your industry has changed over the last decade? Where do you see the major changes and developments happening next?

In terms of the quality of workplaces, we have noticed a much closer bond between architecture and interiors, which has led to our architecture team working more closely with our interiors group ID:SR. For example, the soon-to-be complete Fitzroy Place development in London uses a robust palette of brick and concrete on the exterior that has been carried through to the interior, with the refined brickwork of the façade also used to clad the main core. The continuity between interior and exterior on the project is a move away from the sterile, anodyne character of many ‘spec’ office spaces.

The importance of place-making is now much higher of the agenda. Our projects, like 245 Hammersmith Road, look at not just creating a high-quality office-led development but we are also thinking carefully about the areas in-between buildings that mediate between the public and private space and play a vital role in animating our cities, anchoring developments within their civic context.

Whether working on a laboratory or office, we have seen workplaces become much more people-focused. Designers are auditing the culture and requirements of the team to tune space and places to the specific activities of the client’s team. Our clients are looking to boost productivity but also use the physical environment of their workplace to retain and attract the best and brightest staff.

4. What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your most recent projects (we'd like to show images of those).

One of the joys of working in a large practice is the breadth of projects you get to work on. We are busy shaping transforming two prominent urban blocks in London (Fitzroy Place and Barts Square); we have recently completed the Life Sciences laboratory building for Bristol University; and also working on the East Wick and Sweetwater project to deliver a whole new community on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park site.

We are also delivering our third school using the innovative Liverpool Schools Model, which creates an innovative design solution to create architecturally engaging schools on limited budgets. This approach creates a flexible and economic architectural ‘shell’ in which individual interior components are added to create a mix of learning and social spaces bespoke to the individual school’s requirements.

5. Where do you work best? 

Sheppard Robson’s culture is very much about collaborations between the teams and having open dialogues about projects. I think I work best in our design review sessions (pictured centre) where the practice’s design review group (of which I’m a member) have structured discussions about projects at key milestones.