One One One Eagle Street. Image courtesy of GPT.

13 March 2013 — Legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth has signed a lease for space in Brisbane’s Premium Grade One One One Eagle Street and, according to partner Peter Caloy, high performance buildings are the only way to go.

The company has offices in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, and plans to shift close to 1000 workers across all locations into high-performing spaces. Sydney’s 347 staff were the first to make the shift into sustainable space at Mirvac’s 8 Chifley Square in October last year.

The lease for One One One Eagle will see 197 Brisbane-based staff move in October.

Following suit will be 321 Melbourne staff taking up new quarters in 567 Collins Street from August 2015 and the 95-strong Perth contingent relocating to a new building on St George’s Terrace in early 2016.

Bates Smart is designing the fitout for all four offices and, in keeping with the high Green Star ratings of the buildings, Calov said sustainability and indoor environmental quality will be prioritised.

Corrs’ offices at 8 Chifley Square. Image courtesy of Nick Sellars.

Speaking with The Fifth Estate, Mr Calov said the decision to shift had been driven partly by a desire to break the traditional law office model by moving into open plan spaces that reflect Corrs’ new 2015 business plan goal of driving increased collaboration. The bonus is the new spaces are architecturally distinctive and offer a higher level of occupant amenity than the previous and existing office locations.

“I call it the bargain,” Mr Calov said. “If you are going to move people out of offices and into open plan [spaces], you are not moving to save money. You are moving into open plan because that is the appropriate way for people to interact and work.

“We were keen to generate a sense of excitement about the type of building. These buildings all have an architectural excitement about them [as well as being] efficient around open plan. There is a touch of pizzazz about them.

“Economics was part of the deal. It was important it be received as a smart deal and that it be attractive to the partners and staff.”

In that context of fiscal responsibility, the energy rating becomes important to minimise outgoings and as part of a general “restatement of the [Corrs] brand”, which demonstrates a commitment to sustainability. Mr Calov said the company’s younger staff were particularly keen to see the kind of credentials a Green Star rating indicates.

In functional terms, aspects such as natural light, low-VOC finishes and effective and energy-efficient airconditioning also held importance in terms of staff wellbeing.

“From a commercial perspective, in relation to the various building proposals [Corrs considered], we didn’t look at anything below five star NABERS and 5 Star Green Star,” Mr Calov said.

“In relationship to our commitment to the landlords [under the terms of the lease] to do a particular green fitout, there was a small amount of nervousness in terms of getting a handle on what was required.”

One of the conditions of the Corrs leases is a commitment not to “obstruct the landlord achieving [the building’s] ratings.

“It became our shared objective with all of our landlords that [maintaining the ratings] is what we would do,” Mr Calov said.

To this end there are some staff actions Corrs is encouraging, such as looking at lighting and turning it off if no-one is there. The firm has sought out an appropriate modern airconditioning system that responds on a sector basis.

Because a law firm has intense use of light and power from 7am until up to 8pm five days a week and often intense weekend use, metering of power use will give Corrs feedback on how they as a tenant are performing in terms of power use. Systems are also being put in place to minimise use where it is not needed.

Mr Calov said it had been a new and challenging adventure for the firm to become adept at project managing their office fitouts and examining how to work sustainably within the new spaces.

“A lot of company energy is going into this over the next few months,” he said.

“Overall, it is an exciting project; [in terms of] re-doing of the company brand, the design of the fitouts is a big part of it.”