Left to right: Michael Cameron, Amanda Stanaway, Rob Hitchcock, Rosemary Kirkby

12 August 2011 – GPT officially launched its new offices on three high rise floors at Sydney’s MLC building on Wednesday with a panel discussion that delved into some of the complex thinking that has delivered a virtually paperless office and six star Green Star ambitions in a 33 year old building.

Yes, it was important to act out the company’s leading sustainability ambitions, especially in terms of creating a workspace that would fire the enthusiasm of staff, chief executive officer and managing director, Michael Cameron, told the audience. But there was also the need to demonstrate to clients just what was possible in an older building.

That was a tack that was already bearing fruit, he commented before proceedings; one corporate client had already swung full circle on his opposition to moving to older refurbished offices after seeing the new premises.

The panel included Cameron, GPT’s head of sustainability Rosemary Kirkby, development director and project manager Robert Hitchcok and Woods Bagot senior associate Amanda Stanaway who led the design (The Fifth Estate was moderator).

Guests were City of Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore and chief executive officer Monica Barone, Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Romilly Madew and Property Council of Australia’s executive director NSW Glenn Byers.

Key features of the outcomes said Cameron was to deliver a working environment that could demonstrate that Australian workspaces needed to change to reflect the “rapidly changing needs of the workforce.”

They include “neighbourhoods” of work teams with staff moving around unallocated desk spaces, clearing desks at the end of the day and relying for personal item on only a locker.

Kirkby said the advances in technology in recent times had finally enabled this type of workspace to be realised.

But there was a lot of planning, a lot of consultation with employees before hand and a high level of support through dedicated team leaders to enable the psychological change to match the technological possibilities.

“We first consulted employees about their requirements,” Cameron said.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore congratulates Michael Cameron

“We asked them what sort of office environment would make them feel better about coming to work. As a result, the new office now offers leading edge facilities, including state of the art technology that makes life a whole lot easier for our employees.

“Based on feedback from employees, we have also ensured that the environment has a strong focus on the well-being and health of those who work at GPT, with careful attention paid to lighting, air temperature and quality, amenities, social spaces and privacy.”

The result means team members can one day work at a workbench, the next in a think tank, or another in a quiet library style area, he said.

The driving themes were “collaboration and innovation”.

Cameron admitted there were additional costs in going green, or greener, but he quipped that it costs more to have windows in a building. “It’s something you have to do.”

The good news, he said, was that by improved design the office space had been reduced from five floors to three floors so that there were now 272 desks for 320 employees. Even so occupancy of these desks was still 77 per cent on average, reflecting the mobility of the modern workforce.

Key features of the new offices are:

  • A reduction in paper storage by 90 per cent
  • A reduction in paper use by 50 per cent
  • An expected reduction in energy costs of 50 per cent
  • A lighting energy consumption drop of over 70 per cent
  • A reduction in the overall floor and therefore a reduction in rental costs.

Rob Hitchcock said other elements included reuse of all existing materials. For instance timber panelling was recycled into furniture and all other materials were either recyled or sold for re-use elsewhere. In the common meeting/lunch and function area bright red chairs are made from old Coca-Cola bottles.