Having successfully completed projects for Ocado previously, Woodhouse were asked to create a new office space for their expanding technology team by transforming another of their properties in Welwyn, Aquarius House.
Other parts of the building were already in use by another Ocado division as an automated warehouse, therefore a specific challenge of this project was to avoid disruption to their activities. No small task, as these activities continued around the clock, seven days a week!
Our solution to the brief set by Ocado was to add space by extending the building’s first floor by creating a new mezzanine level within the existing warehouse – carefully working around the expensive conveyor belts underneath – and completely redesigning the layout of the existing floors. New windows have also been added to the first floor, to improve the amount of natural light, provide a pleasant outlook for staff, and complement the bright colour scheme and interiors.
On the ground floor, a spacious breakout area includes a newly enlarged canteen, which serves Ocado employees across Welwyn. A second breakout area on the first floor includes a large meeting room with foldable glass walls that can opened to create a large ‘town hall’ space, complete with tannoy system and projector – ideal for large group presentations and gatherings. Further flexible features in this area such as the modular furniture and soft seating can be easily reconfigured to provide employees access to a range of different space typologies in which to work or socialise.
The main office area on the first floor is made up of single desks arranged in U-shapes that are assigned to employees, to suit their pod-style working. There are more additional meeting rooms and collaborative spaces to the side of the desking areas and off the breakout area, which have writeable walls, giving ample provision for employees to be creative and capture their ideas. To facilitate private calls and focussed working, there are a couple of phone and video conference booths which have height-adjustable desks to suit different styles of working.
Mesh panels have been used selectively to add interest and provide practical solutions. They have been installed against the stairs in the reception area, which not only provide a surface to display Ocado branding but also discreetly close off an electronic gate where access needed to be restricted. In the main office, a continuous strip of mesh ceiling tiles above the main walkway give it a sense of openness, and provides an interesting aesthetic feature to the whole space.
Exterior works included ground works for footings and aircon extenders outside, which were needed to build a new fire escape on the first floor. Woodhouse also installed new mechanical and electrical systems throughout the interior. This was a challenge, due to the multiple extensions the building had had over time, meaning that there were several complicated systems the team had to work around, that were essential in keeping services live.
The result is an office which provides the adaptable and stimulating workspace required by the team, all delivered with minimum disruption to the company’s ongoing warehouse activities.