Berkshire: Bayer, Thames Tower and Porter Building recognised in workplace awards

Bayer and Thames Tower, both in Reading, and The Porter Building in Slough have been recognised as three of the best workplaces in the South of England and South Wales region at the annual British Council for Offices’ (BCO) regional awards, held at We The Curious, Bristol. The prestigious BCO Awards programme recognises the highest quality developments in the UK and sets the standard for excellence in the regional and national office sector.

Pharmaceutical company Bayer won the Best Fit Out of Workplace award and was designed by Perkins+Will. Thames Tower, winner in the Best Refurbished/Recycled Workplace category, was designed by dn-a. The Porter Building, crowned winner of the Innovation award, was designed by tp bennett.

The BCO judging panel felt that Bayer has created a space that both reflects the company’s culture and values, and provides a variety of workplace settings for its agile workforce. They commented that Bayer’s consultative approach amongst its staff, in which the design team incorporated feedback on the project throughout the process, resulted in a fit out that is elegant and stylish without compromising functionality. The judges were particularly impressed with the ‘BayLab’, a permanent lab space dedicated to hosting school visits to inspire the next generation of scientists. Overall, they described Bayer’s relocation to its new office as marking a transformation in the company’s ways of working, and highlighted its exemplary staff retention rate as evidence of the project’s success.

Thames Tower was praised by the judges for its unrelenting focus on delivering a workspace tailored to its occupants. They highlighted the building’s welcoming reception space with floor-to-ceiling glazing that maximises both the daylight into the building, and the views out. ‘Roost’ – a private occupier club room on the top floor of the building with a semi-enclosed terrace overlooking central Reading – also attracted praise from the judges, who described it as the project’s “biggest act of generosity” to the building’s occupants. The BCO judging panel concluded that the project has not only rejuvenated the landmark property, but has had a hugely positive impact on the streetscape of the local area, and has transformed the experience of arriving in Reading by train.

The judges described The Porter Building as having delivered a cutting-edge workplace for the region. They noted that the building, which was the first in the UK to achieve certification through the WELL Building standard under the core and shell category, incorporated an awareness of health and wellbeing throughout. Located directly opposite the town’s railway station, in the judges’ view, the development has delivered a prominent centrepiece in the wider regeneration of Slough.

Andy Heath, partner at Cushman & Wakefield and BCO South of England and South Wales Chair, said: “As well as delivering excellent workspaces for their occupiers, many of this year’s entrants are also significant in the way in which they interact with their local environment. In some cases, offices are described as having regenerated their locales, providing a beautiful new landmark, while others reflect the strong local character of the location in which they are based. Throughout, the best projects have demonstrated strong commerciality through delivering healthy pre-lets or by contributing to the establishment of a new local office market.”

Alistair Allison, partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor and chair of BCO South of England and South Wales judging panel, said:Sustainability has been a strong focus across many of the excellent projects shortlisted, demonstrable through the inclusion of innovative design features such as extensive light wells and smart windows. Our region’s shortlist boasts the first building in the UK to achieve the WELL standard under the core and shell category, with others having received excellent BREEAM certification. Striking design features have also defined this year’s entries, with workplaces showcasing impressive atriums, generous receptions and a number of rooftop terraces capitalising on beautiful surrounding natural landscapes – all of which has contributed to both staff wellbeing and workplace pride.”