Monday 1 December 2014

Chinese office space standards and productive workspaces

China has issued guidelines on how much office space government officials may have, as part of an austerity drive launched by President Xi Jinping. The maximum size at ministerial level is fifty-four square metres; for lower ranking officials it's nine square metres. The detailed regulations to promote frugality also cover office equipment, heating and the size of corridors. A BBC correspondent says it's not uncommon in China for even low-ranked officials to occupy extravagant office buildings, often in under-developed towns or villages.

Alexi Marmot is interviewed on new Chinese office space standards and productive workspaces by James Coomarasamy on BBC World Service, Newshour, 27 Nov 2014. Click here to listen to the interview.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Facility management and the frontiers of evidence-based design

Research, evidence and user engagement form the basis of all AMA Alexi Marmot Associates’ design projects. Alexi Marmot, AMA director and Professor of Facility and Environment Management at The Bartlett, UCL, is currently visiting South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China. She delivered a lecture on ‘Facility management and the frontiers of evidence-based design’ to a packed audience of students, staff, and design practitioners. For more information, please click here.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Nohr-Con conference: Campus formation and learning in secondary schools and higher education, Copenhagen 2014

Nohr-Con the Danish based company specialising in public procurement and construction events, will be holding a conference in Copenhagen on “Campus formation and learning in secondary schools and higher education” in October this year. 
Alexi Marmot, director of AMA Alexi Marmot Associates Ltd, has been invited to talk at this event on the design of attractive and effective learning environments. If you would like to find out more about the event, please click here.

CoreNet Global EMEA Summit, Berlin 2014

The CoreNet Global EMEA Summit, being held in Berlin in 2014, is expected to attract more than 550 attendees working in the corporate real estate space. This will focus on shifting the C-Suite conversation from efficiency and cost cutting to effectiveness and value creation.

Alexi Marmot, Professor of Facility and Environment Management and Head of the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies at University College London (UCL), has been invited as a guest speaker to this event. She will be discussing the topic Evolutionary Psychology Sparks Emerging Workplace, as part of a panel of 4 speakers including Neil Austin, Michael Creamer and Philip Quinn on Tuesday 16th September. If you would like to know more about the event, please click here.

Thursday 31 July 2014

Art + Science of Workplace

Art + Science of Workplace is a fascinating new collaborative research project in partnership with The Bartlett, UCL's world-leading Faculty of the Built Environment, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Cushman & Wakefield and CoreNet Global.

AMA director and Bartlett professor Alexi Marmot is playing a key role in this project, which aims to provide fresh insights into the ‘Art’ of the workplace as practiced by managers, designers and real estate professionals, with the ‘Science’ of the workplace - evidence-based ideas also explored.

This ties in with AMA’s substantial experience in bridging both the arts and sciences in its approach to workplace consultancy. Our WorkWare toolkit encompasses user views through interviews, workshops and questionnaires, as well as hard data on building metrics and utilisation. We have successfully helped organisations to redefine and redesign their work and workplace, and help staff transition through change management and communication.

The Art + Science of Workplace project is exploring ideas from disciplines that rarely join the real estate discourse including: Evolutionary Psychology, Human Computer Interaction, Cognitive Neuroscience and Behavioural Economics.

For more information on Art + Science of Workplace, follow @ArtScienceWork on Twitter.

Thursday 3 July 2014

MOOCs, e-learning and Beyond: Exploring the Future of Virtual Built Environment Teaching

On Tuesday 1st July 2014, Alexi Marmot hosted the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies’ Future Pedagogy Conference. The event was opened by Alan Penn, Dean of the Bartlett, who, reflecting on the history and establishment of UCL as a global university for all, speculated that had it been established in contemporary times, it would have been a MOOC.

MOOCs or “Massive Open Online Courses” are entirely online courses aimed at an unlimited community of students. This has been a relatively recent development in distance learning but is growing in popularity at an exponential rate, due to the open nature of this learning process. 

The nature of the conference was centred on the process of MOOC delivery, and how this might affect built environment education. There was an interesting mix of speakers ranging from developers of MOOC learning platforms such as Daphne Koller, of Coursera, to lecturers in design and specification of the built environment delivering material , such as Architecture part 3 training, in an increasingly digital way.

AMA is already involved in the research of future pedagogy, and looking into its impact on university estates for some of our clients, we were therefore delighted to be present at this event. The subjects discussed were highly interesting and thought provoking in terms of how this could change the way universities might use space in the future. For a summary of the conference please follow this link, and if you would like to know more about MOOCs, please click here.

Monday 16 June 2014

Debate the place of innovative digital technologies in the built environment at The Bartlett's annual pedagogy conference

1 July 2014, University College London’s Bloomsbury campus and surroundings.

For everyone who teaches and is interested in the future of learning, creative learning, and future changes in education affordability; a must if you teach a built environment discipline or are interested in the interaction of place-based and distance education.
Alexi Marmot is playing a key role in sponsoring the conference.

See for more information and to sign up.

Monday 9 June 2014

Bath Spa University 'Commons' Opening

AMA would like to congratulate Bath Spa University on the opening of its new ‘Commons’ teaching building on Thursday 4 June. The event exhibited art installations, dance, theatre and music performances by students and alumni. The building was formally opened by film producer Lord David Puttnam who, in his speech, paid tribute to the strength of the British design industry and credited the new building with enabling the new generations of British designers to maintain our position in the world.

AMA worked closely with the University to develop interior spaces of the ‘Commons’ that would generate enthusiasm for both students and staff. Social learning spaces on the ground floor which incorporate open and quiet positions, have already proved to be extremely popular. Read more about the ceremony and the Newton Park Campus development by clicking the links.

Monday 12 May 2014

Alexi Marmot writes about the influence of architecture on the student experience

An important new book on The Physical University: Contours of space and place in higher education that has just been published by Routledge, edited by Paul Temple. AMA director Alexi Marmot, professor at UCL's Bartlett, has written a key chapter on how the student experience and university effectiveness are influenced by design, architecture and FM.

Details about the book are available here.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Bath Spa University ‘Commons’ is first class

Bath Spa University, BSU, has just opened its highly anticipated new ‘Commons’ building at its Newton Park Campus, Bath. This exciting and innovative new teaching facility, the main hub on campus, will transform the student learning experience and enhance the way staff work, with its professionally conceived design, operations and furnishings.

AMA Alexi Marmot Associates was awarded the interior fit-out for the new build, drawing on our strength and wide experience in higher education projects. We took just 15 months from start to finish, including wide consultation, design, specification, tendering and fit-out.

The building is Bath Spa University’s largest, with 80,000 square feet over three floors, providing additional teaching and meeting spaces, staff work bases and major specialist digital studio facilities.  An outdoor amphitheatre and landscaped areas complete the special landscaped setting.

The Commons offers highly innovative, naturally ventilated spaces with technologically and integrated design elements and furniture.  Lecture and training rooms enjoy a range of furniture set-ups to encourage individual and group work.  The largely open plan ground floor supports the library and student services with bookable, open and quiet work areas, a lively café and flexible spaces for hosting large events. A central media wall - one of the largest in the UK - provides a dramatic information platform for the University within the dramatic atrium.

Professor Christina Slade, Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, reports that colleagues ‘are thrilled with how it looks. We are delighted with the furnishings. Someone said it looked like a first class airline lounge.’ The official VIP opening will be in June.

BSU Commons Building (Photos: AMA)

Monday 28 April 2014

Workplace Strategy Summit 2014

On June 8-10 of this year, University College London will host a gathering of leading thinkers in workplace strategy, including AMA director Alexi Marmot, professor at UCL.

Building on the success of the first Workplace Strategy Summit held at Cornell University, the 2014 summit will feature leading academics and experts in the fields of facility management and real estate speaking about the most innovative concepts to emerge in workplace strategy. 

Among the topics being debated are the following ones:
  • Alexi Marmot: Healthy Building Syndrome
  • Chris Kane/Caroline Waters: Transforming BBC’s Workplace
  • Melissa Marsh and others: Cafes, CoWorking, and the New Economy
  • Frank Becker: Workplace Innovation on the Edge
  • Wim Pullen: Generational Workplace Preferences
  • Also, a number of experts will talk about workplace trends and global workplace research
Read more about the conference at, and see the complete program schedule here

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Should office workers stand rather than sit?

"Sitting is the the smoking of our generation", according to an article in the Harvard Business Review. Not only is it bad for your health, but it decreases productivity: "I suspect advances in office furniture are the main reason productivity stubbornly fails to improve. With everyone sitting so comfortably, there is never any great rush to get things done", writes Lucy Kellaway in the Financial Times. But reducing the amount of time office workers sits is a huge challenge: It means rethinking architecture, disrupting traditional work patterns, and may involve considerable costs. Sit-stand desks are an obvious solution, but they are not cheap, and many employers treat investments in better workplaces as a cost rather than an investment.

AMA director Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design and a UCL Bartlett Professor, was interviewed about this by the BBC. She commented "if what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it is highly unlikely the organisation benefits."

Read the entire BBC article here,  or listen to the interview here or live on BBC Radio 4 next Monday, 21 April, at 21:00.

Sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation.
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 8 April 2014

"Office buildings tend to be very boring" - Richard Rogers

The Economist has reported that offices in the UK are getting ever-smaller (per worker, that is), meaning that many large city firms are consolidating their operations in fewer and fewer buildings. The professional services firm KPMG, for example, has reduced the number of the offices buildings it used in London from seven to two. This is a challenge for architects and designers. How are they responding to it? Not very well, according to Richard Rogers, who opines that "office buildings tend to be very boring" in this video about the Leadenhall building, the Rogers-designed new office building in the City.

The Leadenhall building © Creative Commons licence 

Friday 14 March 2014

University of Loughborough’s Pilkington Library re-opens after Refurbishment

The Pilkington Library at Loughborough University has emerged smiling from a fast track building programme. It now has 1375 library seats, greatly improved facilities including a new reception and information desks as well as fully reconditioned WCs throughout. All this was accomplished in a three month building period during which the library was closed, but provided a comprehensive service in an alternative location. The secret of success in the process lies in several things:
  1. The comprehensive user briefing process that was able to take place at the start. AMA provided concept sketches and important design ideas. These were iteratively developed with the library staff  particularly to bring light and increased connectivity into the formerly gloomy building; 
  2. the decision to close the library so that the extensive work could be carried out enabling additional aspects of improvement to be added to the programme as they would not cause additional disruption;  
  3. the watchful eye, determined support and continuous communication with stakeholders provided by the Library staff, especially Brant Hickman, the Library Facilities Manager, who is more of a Chief Operating Officer rather than a FM. 

The briefing process, into which the Library staff had full input, was longer than the build process.  The project success supports the fact - widely acknowledged, though not always acted on - that good preparation pays off. Though the successful contractor offered a rather different layout initially, the Library used the AMA plans as their ‘base line’ and brought the project back in most respects to what they had agreed they wanted

Closing the entire library – the main one on campus - for three months was a bold action. This is never popular with students. However the alternative service provided was so excellent that there was not a single complaint throughout. This helped the project greatly by opening the way for much wider improvements than originally envisaged. These had originally focussed only on bringing the 4th floor into use for learning seats.  Instead, all 4 floors of the library have received an uplift, and all within the original time scale. This will avoid the need for future disruption to complete small but important additional projects throughout.

Brant and his colleagues had to return regularly to the building during the build process, to collect and return books from the storage zones, as part of the service to the students. This allowed them to engage with what was happening, to suggest improvements, prevent mistakes arising from misreading drawings and maintain good contact with the process so that they could keep stakeholders informed.

A more detailed article will follow. Meanwhile pictures can be accessed on the library's Flickr site here, and more about the project is available here.

Library interior, after the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library  
Library interior, after the refurbishment (same location as below)
© University of Loughborough Library 
Library interior, before the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library 
Library interior, before the refurbishment
© University of Loughborough Library

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Prince Edward visits AMA project

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited Robert Browning Primary School in Walworth on the occasion of his 50th birthday. The school has recently been refurbished and extended with AMA's help.

AMA’s involvement in this project was all-encompassing. Our aim was to make the most of the existing spaces on a compact, urban site and create new, flexible opportunities for learning, which involved the wholesale reconfiguration of the existing Victorian school building, construction of a new entrance, new nursery building and outdoor play areas. 

Through a series of major structural interventions, we sensitively altered the physical restrictions of the existing Victorian building, and provided a prominent new entrance that welcomes visitors, improves security and bolsters the school's identity in its community. The alterations transformed circulation areas into useful learning spaces while clustering the ground floor classrooms and toilet facilities to improve the building’s organisation and legibility.

Read more on the project here, and see pictures of the Earl's visit here.

Robert Browning School after the refurbishment
Picture © AMA 2013

Monday 3 March 2014

YES to physical universities in an age of MOOCs, distance and online learning

Do we still need physical universities in an age of distance learning and online courses? A unanimous yes is the answer according to the authors of a new book, The Physical University, published this month, edited by Paul Temple from the Institute of Education. They make the case that place-based universities are still essential even while virtual universities expand and flourish across the globe. Demand for all forms of learning is growing internationally as the world population expands and as higher education participation rates rise, even in the poorest countries. So there is still a vast and expanding need for face-to-face, virtual, and blended learning offerings. Place-based research environments where new knowledge develops are also increasing. It is there that the new ideas taught by future teachers are generated.

Alexi Marmot's illuminating chapter "Managing the Campus" demonstrates how the student experience and university effectiveness are influenced by the design and management of the estate. This is essential reading for all those interested in university space, pedagogy, teaching and learning, estate management and design.

Details about the book are available here.

University of Oxford, Trinity College
© Creative Commons licence

 Illinois Institute of Technology, Crown Hall, by Mies van der Rohe
© Creative Commons licence

Adsetts Learning Centre reviewed positively by students

Sheffield Hallam University’s recently refrubished Adsetts Learning Centre, which was redesigned by AMA, has been received very positively by students. In the 2013 National Student Survey, 89% of SHU’s students praised the library and its resources. One student commented that 'it's just great in the learning centre. It's a place you really want to study in - as soon as you walk in you're in the mindset to work, in a really comfortable environment', while another thought that ‘the facilities are really good, particularly the learning centre. I find it really easy to concentrate there’.

AMA worked closely with the SHU learning centre team to rethink how their award winning library building could be transformed to meet the needs of today’s students, address the rapidly changing work and teaching patterns in the future, and provide a bright and welcoming environment. Effective and rational panning allowed the retention of the same number of books and the number of study places was increased by 10% and each of these also had a larger footprint. The building is open 24/7, and was fully occupied during the refurbishment, which was carried out in the quietest time in 3 phases over 3 summers to minimise disruption.

Adsetts Learning Centre. Photo © AMA 2012

Tuesday 18 February 2014

New Offices for Southwark Council opened

Southwark Council are currently occupying the third and final building at Queens Road in Peckham, a major component in their Modernise 2 programme. This has been part of a continued rationalisation and upgrading of their workplace facilities including a Customer Contact Centre and space for administrative staff brought together from a number of locations. AMA with Mott McDonald and Overbury have helped the Council provide consistently more effective and appropriate spaces that not only bring the users together in the heart of the Borough, but also release other buildings and sites for better uses.
This follows on from the Council’s Modernise 1 programme which created an efficient and effective centralised facility for approximately 2000 workplaces in Tooley Street in 2009.

Inside Southwark's Queen's Road Offices
All pictures © AMA 2013

Tuesday 11 February 2014

The Future of Massive Open Online Courses

The burgeoning MOOC - Massive Open Online Courses - community of Europe met this week in the Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland’s EPFL, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. This stunning and original building by global star-chitects SANAA, one of the most expensive university libraries in the world, is a symbol of belief in the power of place for the student experience in traditional universities, an ironic though attractive, location in which to debate the disruptive educational model of MOOCs at the eMOOC's 2014 European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit.

Over 400 attendees from universities and developers of the main MOOC platforms – Cousera, EdX, Miriada X, Canvas networks, Open2study, Futurelearn, France Université Numérique, iversity, among others – heard illuminating presentations on the benefits and pitfalls of MOOCs. The statistics are clear –  many people register for a MOOC, few become learners (i.e. watch at least one session), and even fewer complete the course and receive a certificate – typically around 5% of the registered learners. Most learners already have a university education, many at Masters level or above.

Two takeaway lessons for this learner. First, the possibility of MOOCs has forced traditional universities and colleges to focus on their existing students and the best form of pedagogy to ensure that both face-to-face and online learning are as good as they can be. Second, and most inspiring, is that MOOCs may in fact deliver a huge increase in global education excellence, improving dramatically equity of educational opportunity, especially for people of the ‘global south’.

Conference Twitter feed: #eMOOCs2014

Rolex Learning Centre © Wikimedia Commons license
Rolex Learning Centre © Alexi Marmot
What are MOOCs? © Creative Commons license