Barangaroo Tenancies—A Perfect Fusion of Tradition and Design Excellence

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group reveals their experience in Barangaroo, Australia, developing well-balanced work spaces by considering staff wellbeing, innovative design, and sustainability.

Barangaroo is named after the second wife of Bennelong, the interlocutor between the Aboriginal people and the early British colonists in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Barangaroo was a member of the Cammeraygal clan.

The Barangaroo Precinct is a major development with more than AUD$6 billion (USD$4.05 billion) in capital invested in the precinct. When completed by 2024, the precinct will provide space for over 24,000 permanent jobs, generate approximately AUD$2 billion (USD1.35 billion) annually to the NSW economy and provide over 11 hectares (27 acres) of newly accessible public domain.

In the commercial building sector, agility is a distinct advantage

The ability to pivot with speed to a changing environment can make a dramatic difference to the profitability of a company. This includes taking advantage of the developments in technology, processes, and employee working environments.

The 22-hectare (55-acre) Barangaroo project is one such example. The precinct is designed to provide an optimal experience for working and visiting occupants. With supporting retail areas, green zones, and enhanced accessibility, the design of engineering services for such an integrated project required a high degree of care, experience, and raw talent.

Every step, every space, every plant display has been meticulously considered within the precinct-level space to support occupant wellbeing. State-of-the-art technology, supplemented by the very latest in contemporary engineering design, has resulted in highly evolved office facilities.

A sense of journey

The Barangaroo project involved a creative and innovative vision for the ground-up precinct level design to provide the ultimate in commercial occupant experience. Beyond the provision of office space, there were numerous factors contributing to optimizing the space. The first of these was the addition of the impressive Wynyard Walk.

A spectacular introduction to the precinct, with a modern architectural and lighting design, the Wynyard Walk pedestrian tunnel provides streamlined access to Barangaroo. A convenient and aesthetically pleasing link for commuters and visitors, regardless of weather or traffic conditions, makes the amenity the first in a new generation of supremely designed commercial precincts.

“The tunnel can handle 20,000 pedestrians per hour, removing geographical and topological obstacles between public transport and precinct, turning an uphill climb into an easy six minute stroll.”
Peter Koulos

This project involved building a tunnel link and footbridge between Wynyard Station, the developing central business district western corridor and Barangaroo.

Tetra Tech was part of the Thiess contractor team, delivering the engineering services design. Our Peter Koulos says, “the tunnel can handle 20,000 pedestrians per hour, removing geographical and topological obstacles between public transport and precinct, turning an uphill climb into an easy six minute stroll.”

Form meets function

Through the tunnel and into the Barangaroo precinct, one is greeted by an overwhelming sense of unity between form and function.

The master planning and level of investment in Barangaroo paved the way for leading companies such as KPMG, Gilbert + Tobin, Marsh & McLennan, Westpac, HSBC, and Servcorp, to commit to long-term leases. As proof of their belief in the project, Barangaroo developer Lendlease also moved their headquarters to occupy levels 8-19 in Tower 3.

Creating a supremely stylish and fluid occupant experience that supported the modern working practices of these commercial tenants was bestowed on Tetra Tech.

Each occupant has a unique method of working, as well as design and sustainability goals for their space. Tetra Tech was called upon to address these key points in the interior fit outs, often while construction of the base building was continuing higher in the same tower.

A common requirement for key tenants was removing the standard cubicle arrangement of desks in favor of an agile working environment. This allows people the choice to collaborate by task, rather than have a static workspace.

Lendlease staff are very positive about the new location.

“It helps bring our staff together in one place as a cohesive unit,” says Richard Stafford, Senior Project Manager at Lendlease Investments. “We are all happy with the features within the agile environment which allows our staff to work in any number of areas such as the ‘focus’ area for quiet space, or the ‘breakaway’ area for those wanting to make more of a racket.”

To enhance the fluid work style within the agile environment, technology was key. It ensures all systems are user friendly, reliable, and ably supported.

“One of the staff’s favorite features are our town center, a café flanked either side by conference facilities—it is a daily attractor, a welcome for staff who enjoy the convenience of a cafe within the premises, so less time is wasted travelling outdoors,” says Stafford.

The new Barangaroo development also provided law firm Gilbert + Tobin with the opportunity to move to a more agile office environment. The firm wanted to create a Sydney office space that reflected their status as a leading corporate law firm. They relied on Tetra Tech to ensure it was efficient, comfortable, and sustainable.

Gilbert + Tobin’s new 9,500-square-meter (102,260-square-foot) Sydney office in Tower 2 at Barangaroo introduces complete open-plan working with some flexible hot-desking arrangements, dedicated innovation, idea generation spaces, and a centralized administration and concierge service to support the firm’s offices nationally.

Managing Partner Danny Gilbert says the firm had always been regarded as one of the country’s most progressive law firms, well-known for its egalitarian culture built on collaboration, creativity and high-performance as well as its role as an outstanding corporate citizen.

“Our objective with Barangaroo was to design a space that will introduce new ways of thinking to meet the challenges and opportunities which the future is presenting, particularly around major technology change. Our working style is highly interactive, so we need a space to foster ideas and collaboration.”

Gilbert says the firm had excelled in its chosen areas of expertise and with an outstanding client base in a relatively short period of time. "We have done this by knowing exactly what we are good at and focusing continuously on building on our strengths.”

“Today, we’re known for being innovative and agile and not accepting the norm as the only way of doing things,” said Gilbert. Our culture is built around these values and people choose to work at Gilbert + Tobin because they have the same values and aspirations.”

Similarly, Australia’s oldest bank Westpac wanted to incorporate a human centered agile environment. Westpac has allocated an additional 20 percent more people to the fit out than work points, and floors have been broken down into neighborhoods to create a sense of belonging and human scale. Each neighborhood contains quiet rooms, informal collaboration spaces, personal lockers, storage, and utility spaces to assist with day-to-day operation.

A major challenge in the project was simultaneously implementing the fit out design in a building still under construction. This required careful collaboration of upper portion construction with Lendlease so that the Gilbert + Tobin area was effectively completed.

The Westpac fit out, located in Tower 2 of the precinct, was designed by Geyer Architects and managed by Lendlease Project Management and Construction. It was the largest fit out to target a Green Building Council of Australia 6 Star interiors rating using the new pilot tool. To improve air quality and mood, more than 9,000 indoor plants were installed in what is now Australia’s largest green rooftop.

Tetra Tech was engaged by Westpac for a number of services and also acted as the lead consultant, facilitating coordination via 3-D modelling with other consultants that included architectural, fire and hydraulic services, specialty lighting and audio visual.

While most companies look at total office size when relocating their offices, Westpac used a measurement of happiness the space could bring.

John Arthur, chief operating officer at Westpac, says the proof of happy workers is a reduction in absenteeism by 15 percent, even though the new premises have only been fully operational since November 2015. Arthur says the staff engagement as to what was needed and desired in the new offices was a point of difference from other new offices.

"We have designed the offices to give our staff the best possible work place, which we believe will generate more efficiencies," says Arthur. "We are providing our people with an environment to enable them to do their best work."

Sandra Casinader, the integration program director at Westpac, led the transformation process, and says staff were engaged at every step of the new office design.

"We reward the output with the creation of a physical environment that responds to the changing way in which offices now work,” says Casinader.

In addition to modifying the base building systems, Tetra Tech led the development of options for locating active chilled beams and swirl diffusers above various types of ceilings. This enabled an integrated mechanical solution to client areas that complimented the proposed architectural solutions.

Acoustically fit

But it's not all work. Located within the Barangaroo towers is a premium gymnasium.

Fitness First provides a unique benefit to the precinct, along with a particular challenge. By including an extensive gymnasium into the building, the occupant fitness experience was top of mind. The health and wellbeing benefits of having a convenient place for occupants to exercise was obvious—and highly desired by tenants.

Fitness First acquired two tenancies in the Barangaroo development. This first occupancy in Tower 1 on the podium level incorporated a full gym fit out, with areas for exercise machines, free weights and studio areas for fitness classes. This tenancy also includes a childcare facility below the gym, and commercial space above, so isolating the adjacent spaces acoustically was a key point for the fit out.

The second Fitness First tenancy in the R7 building includes a studio area for fitness classes, and has the capability to support “hot yoga” classes, whereby the participants practice their yoga at about 40 percent humidity and 40 °C. The studio also had to support regular classes, and so provided a particular challenge to the environmental system.

Tetra Tech provided an environmental control system that allows the studio to reach this environmental setting within 30 minutes and return to normal within 30 minutes of the end of the class. The settings can be pre-programmed into the system to ensure that classes are always ready to go on time—a feature especially important to many corporate clients who may have rigid schedules to keep.

The ceiling of this space required careful consideration. With more than 30 heating panels—requiring integration with the fire sprinklers, air diffusers, acoustic panels, lighting, and audio systems—organizing the services in the ceiling was no small feat.

In both spaces, acoustic isolation was vital to the fit out. By ensuring that the adjacent tenancies were not being disturbed by the latest Kanye track, or by the sounds of weights dropping, the occupant experience of those spaces would remain optimal. Tetra Tech provided expert acoustics consulting services to ensure the end result was a vibrant and energetic space for Fitness First, and an undisturbed space for the neighbors.

Satisfying a cultural shift

The KPMG fit out at Barangaroo is located more than 30,000 square meters (323,000 square feet) within the high rise of Tower 3. The relocation to Barangaroo also provided KPMG with activity-based workplace setting, and two complete floors specially designed for interactive client experiences.

Moving into Barangaroo was a significant cultural shift for KPMG. The company wanted to step away from the basic cubicle and office setup, instead opting for an office that promoted collaboration and adaptability in an agile workplace environment. This required the implementation of many small and medium-sized meeting rooms, along with large, open, and configurable office areas to accommodate all types of space requirements.

Key for KPMG was for their client floors to provide greater flexibility. A number of spaces are capable of functioning in several configurations including as function rooms, meeting rooms, teleconference and telepresence rooms, presentation areas, and entertainment spaces.

The area is serviced by a full commercial kitchen with the capacity to cater up to 400 people, plus a cafe for clients and staff to mix and mingle. There are also two showcase function areas with eight-meter-high (26-foot-high) ceilings, and panoramic views of the stunning harbor and city.

The air conditioning systems designed by Tetra Tech allows for air to be diverted from underutilized areas of the fit out to areas with high occupancy. Providing ease of use, the air conditioning throughout the fit out is automated and integrated with the lighting system. Temperature sensors are also integrated with the light switches to provide a clean aesthetic and reduce the number of visible sensors within the space.

Due to high occupancy on the client floors, Tetra Tech completely redesigned the base building systems, installing tenant air handling units within base building plant rooms to provide the flexibility the spaces required—this allowed the client to maximize their space by reducing the net lettable area required by air handling plant.

Security with confidence

With the 24/7 nature of many modern businesses, any interruption in business operation—even momentary—can have substantial repercussions. This is particularly true for companies within the financial sector.

HSBC devoted an entire level of their Barangaroo space as a trading floor. As a hub of commercial activity, the security of occupants is always a high priority. Along with the security systems allowing staff access, turnstiles, and lift access restricting unwanted visitors, other innovative features included the HSBC’s mailroom which is proofed against biological attacks, with the entire room featuring an isolated atmosphere that can be enabled within moments.

Delivering Barangaroo as an exciting new destination involves the planning of exceptional public spaces with built-in sustainability and connectivity through integrated, active transport links.

Creating this sense of community from 22 hectares (55 acres) of disused industrial land was an ambitious plan. But Barangaroo is a place-making in progress, an evolution of exceptional infrastructure, design and architecture, public spaces, and experiences.

It is well documented that Bennelong spent considerable time in the British settlement in Sydney, while Barangaroo maintained her way of life with her people. Her legacy lives on in the cultural connectivity of Barangaroo the place.

Image courtesy of Gilbert + Tobin and Westpac