Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

ASB's new building boasts flexible work spaces

Activity-based working, where workers can change desks depending on what they are doing, pioneered by consultants Veldhoen + Company of the Netherlands, dominates the design of Auckland's new waterfront ASB North Wharf.

Derek Shortt, ASB's property manager, took the Herald on a filmed tour of the controversial new Wynyard Quarter HQ, criticised by some for its radical, cone-shaped roof feature and unusual appearance.

Shortt said the new working layout meant 1280 staff could choose where to sit each day and often throughout the day, depending on what they were doing, from high-focus confidential conversations in a traditional walled office, to low-focus group meetings in larger open areas where tables could seat about 14 people or more where many other staff would pass by.

Veldhoen says this system means staff don't go to the same desk each day but instead work in a far more flexible fashion. This can drastically reduce the number of desks and offices required and some of the budget saved in leasing and fit-out can be invested in a higher spec working environment and information technology, he says.

One of the building's most striking features is the huge, multi-coloured, aluminium outdoor artwork by Michael Parekowhai, which Shortt said was about 30m long and almost one level high. Achy Breaky Heart, coated in automotive paints and on the wall of Te Wero Lane between the two campus-style buildings, is based on cuisenaire rods.

Barbecues will soon be installed on the view deck on the top of the building and up to 500 people will work on each floor, which Shortt said was a radical break from the traditional silo-style towers.

Shortt said Jon Raby, ASB's chief financial officer, told him: "People don't like it. They love it".

Just on 1180 staff have now left ASB Tower on Albert St, where floors are being decommissioned for occupation by new owner Auckland Council.

ASB is expecting huge energy cost savings in what will be its eighth headquarters since it was founded 166 years ago.

"It will be about 50 per cent but that will take us two years. We have 20 per cent now but over the next two years we'll know," Shortt said.

As for criticism of the building's appearance, Shortt is philosophical: "It's like art. This is 3D art. People either love or hate it, so you have to accept that some people hate it. You shouldn't get upset about that because it's like all architecture - it's in the eyes of the beholder."

Derek Shortt/BVN

Also designed and developed:
*C:Drive, the ASB building, Albany, owned by DNZ.
*Sovereign House, Takapuna, owned by Smales Farm.
*ASB North Wharf, Wynyard Quarter, owned by Kiwi Income Property Trust.

- NZ Herald

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