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CBRE’s staggering new workspace design for their new offices



Real Estate advisor CBRE has recently moved into the most modern office buildings located on the Boulevard de Waterloo in the centre of Brussels, between the Porte Louise and the Porte de Namur. This was more than a change of building, however, but a real shift in workplace philosophy. And the result is enough to make you forget any ‘new way of working’ offices you have seen before.

The main reason for the move was that CBRE wished to be much more centrally located than was the case on Avenue Lloyd George, alongside the Bois de La Cambre at the top of the Avenue Louise. This new location has advantages in terms of visibility, but above all where accessibility and mobility are concerned. Just a minute or so’s walk to the Porte de Namur metro station, with its direct connection to the South Station, and one stop connections to the city’s two other main railway stations (Central and North). In terms of space, the new building provides 2,300 square meters, slightly smaller than Lloyd George. It should be noted that there remain only two ‘closed’ offices – one for the CFO (for obvious reasons) and one for the CEO – although even this is available for use by the whole of the personnel.

To the question of whether the post-Covid trend among companies will be for more or for less office space, Lionel Andries, Head of the Workspace department, says: “I don’t think there is any fundamental trend – because needs are different in every case. I think that offices are going to become more like places for meeting, exchanging, training, and that above all they are going to have to be flexible.” Here at CBRE, home-working is available, and used to some degree, but the personnel largely states that they are very happy to come to the office. Through making a fundamental shift in the way its offices operated, CBRE wished to both attract and retain talent (generations Y and Z place more importance on flexible mobility and working conditions than almost anything else).

Three floors, one philosophy, no repetition

The first reflection on the interior design started in July 2019 – far before Covid 19 hit. Happily, the workspace philosophy CBRE had decided on involved a maximum of space for reasons of comfort and efficiency, so social distancing was already built in. The three floors of the offices are laid out with the departments located on the lower two, and the client and commercial partner meeting areas on the top floor. Nevertheless, on each ‘working’ floor are to be found small and large / open and closed meeting rooms and areas, and each internal department is located in what CBRE refers to as a ‘village’ – a zone with hot desks and other places to work, all entirely flexible. The personnel can choose to sit at a desk, go to a private, closed and acoustically insulated small meeting room, sit on one of the sofas or other informal areas. Every room and zone is decorated differently in terms of colour and furniture, creating a feeling of living rooms rather than offices. Most of the open zones can also be privatized using curtain partitions. Waste is sorted in social areas, and various types of drinking water are dispensed from a special fountain.

The top floor features another variety of meeting areas, from small booths to a leather armchair ‘club’ ambiance… There is also a fully fledged bar complete with bar stools and table football. White phone booths offer the opportunity to make phone calls without being overheard. Because the bar and eating area are on this floor, eating and drinking is forbidden on the two lower floors. There is also one specially dedicated ‘quiet room’ on each floor.

The new offices have, indeed, been designed according to no less than 10 different types of spaces. These include large and small meeting areas, informal sitting areas, a ‘brainstorming room’ and quiet corners…

Paperless

Another feature which sets these offices apart is the degree of connectivity. CBRE is going as paperless as possible, and large screens in every meeting room and in some corridors are used for all internal communication. Everything is operated at the touch of a button or a screen, and the whiteboards in some meeting rooms are also electronic – sliding a ‘pen’ over the board creates the image or words and the board does not have to be wiped clean. Meeting rooms are centrally bookable via an intranet system. All computer screens on the desks, along with the screens in the meeting areas, are ‘plug & play’ so that any member of the personnel can use any zone for work or for a meeting.

Where partners in this exercise are concerned, CBRE has its own Workspace department (Design & Build activities), but worked with a number of partners for the various different elements (see inset). “One advantage we had”, goes on Lionel Andries, “is that thanks to our own internal department composed of Architects, Interior architects, Engineers and Project Managers, we were really able to create exactly what we wanted, not simply call on an external design service”. All of the HVAC and the lighting has been changed and energy consumption reduced to a minimum.

These offices are clearly a living shop window for CBRE when it comes to explaining what is possible to clients. On this point, Lionel Andries says: “The strategic thinking behind the design of these new offices was based on the clean and flex desk principles. We made it a point of honour to make our staff aware of the benefits of an agile, flexible and well-organized workspace. Every effort has been made to adapt the work environment to the user and not the other way around.”

This report is also available in french en dutch as published on PROFACILITY.be with a gallery of more than 20 photos >>

> CBRE: een verbijsterend nieuw werkplekontwerp
br> > Conception créative et multi-facettes des nouveaux espaces de travail de CBRE
Tim Harrup
01-09-2020
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