Lead the way

Open office design influenced by workforce mobility and desire for LEED certification.

The reception of the Davis Langdon office combines light and dark to create a serious but contemporary look
The reception of the Davis Langdon office combines light and dark to create a serious but contemporary look

Open office design influenced by workforce mobility and desire for LEED certification.

Davis Langdon, a global construction consultancy, has just moved into a new 8000 square foot office in Healthcare City, Dubai. It is the company's third office in the city and has been designed to reflect a forward-looking professional approach, backed by the solidity of years of experience in the market.

Interior design firm Bluehaus got its brief direct from Davis Langdon's London office. Davis Langdon had worked with consultants developing a look and feel for its offices, which although it did not go into the details of exact finishes, did work to create a clear corporate look.

Bluehaus needed to emulate this look in the new Dubai office, while still dealing with the local procurement issues, time constraints and working with suppliers to make sure everything was delivered on time.

"That was the challenge," said Ben Corrigan of Bluehaus. "We were trying to get the same look and feel, not necessarily exactly, but people needed to walk in and recognise the space as a Davis Langdon office.

"One of the things in the original brief was to make an office that was brighter and more forward thinking. Hence the space is 100% open plan, there are lots of laminates in primary colours, and there are also a lot of corporate messages around the space, such as projects they've completed and the company's mission statement."

Given the client's core business and skill set, the budget was well defined and accounted for everything. The global reach of the company had a benefit as well, a worldwide agreement with Herman Miller sees everyone sitting on Aeron chairs.

"Because they work as cost consultants there was no issue," said Corrigan. "The budget wasn't a concern, the client had budgeted for and listed everything.

"If you look at what we've achieved there, with things like Herman Miller furniture and Milliken carpets - which are recyclable - they've just been very wise with their money. The back of house area is very nice, but actually there's just a white paint finish on the walls.

"Davis Langdon was very clever about where it spent its budget. Lots of corporate client offices look fantastic, but zero is spent on the important bits, such as the ergonomics of the furniture. They've spent money on the furniture and fittings, not on the walls."

"The result is a professional, clean, yet not over designed interior. Customers need to walk in and feel that this is a serious company. The design has an element of youthfulness about it, but it also has to reflect Davis Langdon's years in the Gulf; people need to see them as professional and forward thinking ... that was the brief."

This dual identity of youth and experience was achieved through various design devices, the most obvious of which is the choice of materials. Sandstone on the floor and cherry-wood veneer for the walls in the reception area, offer the element of permanence required in a 'serious' office.

First impressions start in the lift-lobby, which was redesigned to remove the 'healthcare' look from the original. The aim was to make visitors feel they were on a Davis Langdon floor, not just visiting an office. Branding and signage by Omni Signs is subtly placed as people step out of the lift.


Once in reception a white back-lit glass reception desk gives a contemporary edge and provides some contrast to the wood veneer.

Opening directly on to the reception area is an informal coffee bar, developed with the help of City Palace, that seats about a dozen people. Corrigan cites this as one of the forward thinking aspects of the design.

It's the kind of concept that has been hugely successful in mature markets and is now spreading, as people get used to the idea that it's a space not just for coffee, but where informal meetings can happily take place.

"Part of it is getting used to the office and being confident it will work," said Corrigan. "In an environment like that you have to step outside of corporate interior design and ask what makes a successful cafe or bar.

The space has to have background noise and include a visual element, such as the use of TV screens. It's important that people need to walk in and feel like they can't hear a pin drop, they need to know that people nearby won't be able to overhear their conversation."

Once inside the office itself, the way the company is structured and works is reflected in the layout of the works pace. An open-plan space arrangement puts an emphasis on a flat hierarchy and also reflects the mobility of the company's work force.

"David Langdon shifts resources around world all the time," said Corrigan. "So, there's lots of hot-benching in the office. It's such a mobile company and I think that's part of the reason they made the decision to go all open plan. It's not uncommon for someone to work from someone else's desk."

Corrigan sees the hot-benching area, built against a wall laminated in bright Canary yellow as one of the most successful spaces in the design. Bold colours also feature in a custom-designed recycling zone. A bright orange box with a grey Corian top directs people to separate their recycling appropriately, with paper waste being shredded on the spot.

The recycling zone sits within the office's print hub. As well as the natural partnership between printing and paper recycling, the hub also performs a social function.


Centralised in the middle of the office, the print hub was the best answer for the company that didn't want people to use their own desk-mounted printers. Going to a central location for printed documents encourages people to move around the office and communication.

LEED certification requirements also had a big part to play in the design. So as well as encouraging recycling of paper, the selected furnishings and carpet are recyclable too. Significant effort was also put into to getting the right lighting, something Corrigan describes as the hard part of LEED certification.

"Lighting was important for LEED certification and has been based on LG7," said Corrigan. "We had slots in the windows, something that can make the areas next to them seem very dark. We worked with lighting consultants Accoulite to illuminate these recesses, to create feeling of natural daylight all around the office.

But we had to find fittings with the right technical specifications, which don't give off too much heat and then liaise with MEP consultants WSP to ensure they get used."

Heat sensors located throughout the office are used to detect a human presence and ensure that lighting is only on when it's needed.

Site conditions made technical aspects of the design challenging. With a low slab level and subsequent low services, ceiling placement was crucial. Efforts were made by Bluehaus and WSP to push the services aside in areas such as the reception, in order to offer a greater feeling of space through ceiling height.

Despite some site restrictions Corrigan is pleased with the result Bluehaus has been able to achieve and is confident it is a look that won't date.

"I can see it looking good in five or ten years time," he said.

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