Maxwood Washrooms

Lifts, lobbies, loos and views

Benubi, organisers of the recent ‘Lobbies, Lifts, Loos and Views’ event at Maxwood’s London Showroom, have provided the following review of the debate.

Earlier this year we gathered at Maxwood Washrooms’ London Showroom to debate the added value of non-commercial office space AKA ‘lobbies, lifts, loos and views’. Kicking off, Rolf McMullan (Maxwood), contended that these elements, if tastefully designed and well-constructed, can add value to the office experience. A moot point said Andrew Parker, Head of City Agency, Cushman and Wakefield. In his opinion the greatest added value comes from ‘heights and terraces’. The higher up the building, the greater the prestige and, despite the vagaries of the English weather, occupiers put great value on outdoor space. Combined, these two can command a rent 50% higher than floor space without these elements.

What really adds value though, in the opinion of a number of the guests around the table, including John Robertson (JRA Architects), Neil Pennell (Land Securities) and Chris Richmond (PWC) is understanding that the way in which offices are used today has fundamentally changed. The Millennial Generation – the average age of a PWC employee is 29 – doesn’t want a chair and desk, but an office experience. They want to be able to rub shoulders with their colleagues. Repair the puncture on their bike. Take a shower. Attend an inspirational event. Work on their second job – the app that will change the world. All these things mean that offices today have to work smarter and work better. To be more like a hotel or home – less like a place of work.

Concepts that are responding to this opportunity include ‘WeWork’ and ‘Second Home’, serviced office providers where like-minded organisations and individuals come together to live, work and play. It might be quite early in the morning, but come evening people are benefiting from the beer on tap and bespoke events calendar. And according to Stacey Meadwell (Estates Gazette) even the giants such as Aon, the insurance provider, understand that to attract the best of this generation they need to rethink their office environment. Millennials are used to the best and want the best. They are the iPhone generation with great expectations.

How to live up to these great expectations? According to Simon Gammack (Gardiner Theobald) and Tom Callaway (Argent) we need to rethink the way in which a building is designed as densities increase. Shut off the lifts and put in internal staircases – but beware here of Building and DDA Regulations and the expense. Rip out the conference rooms and put in ‘think pods’. Get rid of the staff canteen and put in a business lounge. Give people credit cards to book their desk by the hour, day or week. Welcome them to your building with a smile and an iPad wielding concierge. Think about their well-being not their well-working! All of these ideas and more were discussed across the breakfast table.

So what does this mean for those lobbies, lifts and loos of our discussion? All will need to respond to these trends. Lobbies are no longer marble-clad mausoleums where receptionists lurk behind chest height desks, but open, inspirational environments where people come together to exchange ideas over a fresh-pressed juice or cappuccino. The wait for the lift is no longer, as smart technology means the lift is waiting to take you to your destination before you even hit a button. Washrooms form part of the entire experience, beautifully designed and fitted out to match the expectations of the user. Molton Brown hand soaps and creams. Sleek concrete sinks. Floor to ceiling cubicles, ultra-modern finishes. Showers are no longer consigned to the basement. Faith rooms and bidets all have to be accommodated. And all of these things are designed to enhance the experience.

So added value or hygiene factor, in the opinion of Maxwood’s guests? Most likely both. Expectations today are such that if the non-commercial elements are properly thought out and executed then the building is more attractive with greater intrinsic value. So while not necessarily quantifiable – there is value to be added through the lobbies, lifts, loos and views.