About a month ago I had the opportunity to tour the brand new City of Edmonton offices in the Edmonton Tower. The City is the largest tenant in the new building, leasing a total of 17 floors (with a 20 year lease). The goal is to consolidate a number of existing City offices into the new tower, which will house about 2,300 City employees when the move is complete later this year.
Our tour began on the sixth floor, which will be home to members of the Sustainable Development department. Robert Guenther, Project Director of the City’s Civic Accommodation Transformation, and Scott Varga, Workspace Design Lead, showed us around. They told us the project is on track to achieve the LEED Gold designation.
As you might expect, the offices feature an open floorplan but have been organized into “neighbourhoods” to group colleagues together. Throughout each floor there are desks, shared desks or hotelling spaces, breakout rooms, meeting rooms of various sizes, and a variety of other types of workspaces. The walkways felt a little cramped at times, but the workstations themselves felt spacious and inviting.
Employees are encouraged to work where and how they want to, and that includes in the large cafe space that is on each floor. It is intended to be more than just a kitchen, with movable furniture (they pointed out “things on casters” a few times during the tour) and tech amenities to facilitate meetings. The City refers to this varied way of working as “alternative work strategies” and they think it’ll help to attract and retain employees. At the same time, they expect about 90% of staff will work “similarly” to how they did in other offices.
On the sixth floor we got to see a pretty neat drafting area, basically a large standing desk with storage underneath surrounded by whiteboards. Other floors might have something different in that location, something more suited to the work being done there.
Every workstation features a sit-stand desk, which I think is amazing! The furniture all looks brand new but is mostly stuff the City already had, refurbished using recycled materials. About 40% of the furniture, including the walls of the cubicles, have been repurposed from elsewhere.
Each floor features roughly 118 workstations and will be home to an average of 130 people. Every employee gets a locked cabinet for their stuff, but some employees will not have their own desks. Those employees will use the hotelling desks that are available, or the meeting spaces.
There are about 25 meeting rooms on each floor, with the nicest conference rooms located on the exterior walls which means they feature lots of natural light. Speaking of light, all the light fixtures are LED and they’re dimmable. Smart monitoring systems will adjust the brightness of the lights depending on how bright it is outside. Other sensors monitor and automatically adjust air, heat, and other systems. The offices are climate controlled using “chilled beam radiant heating/cooling” in the ceiling, and apparently this is just the second office in Edmonton to use the technology (PCL’s headquarters is the other).
There are a variety of breakout areas throughout each floor plus small meeting rooms called “now rooms”. One of the most interesting things about the office is that the walls are all component-based and can be taken down and moved in a couple of hours. That means that rooms are not 100% silent, but I went inside one and closed the door and had to strain to hear the folks outside. Additionally, the ceiling on each floor features a unique sound masking system that produces a sort of white noise that can be made louder or quieter as required.
It was a bit harder to see all of the tech featured in the new offices, but it’s there, mostly behind-the-scenes like the smart sensor systems mentioned previously. Internet access is full gigabit, with increased wi-fi capacity compared to previous City offices. The building will also feature Open City Wi-Fi for guests. In an effort to continue reducing paper use, many meeting spaces feature Chrome boxes and the associated A/V to facilitate web meetings and document presentation.
The outside of the Edmonton Tower features the revised, sans-serif City of Edmonton logo on the east and west sides of the building. Though it is often referred to as “the City tower” or something along those lines, it is officially just called “Edmonton Tower”.
There’s nothing on the south side (which features the distinctive curve) but the north side is home to a large 4K screen that will be used for art and messaging (not ads), as captured in this photo by Jeff Wallace:
The City’s move to the tower began on November 4, and every two weeks or so another group of employees move in. The City expects the move to be complete this summer. They are upgrading Century Place, where some staff will remain, and Chancery Hall is also expected to remain in use by City staff for the time being.
Over the next couple of months you can expect new public art on the main floor of the Edmonton Tower. Next month, the brand new Edmonton Service Centre will open on the second floor, providing a one-stop shop for City services like transit, permits, and licenses.
You can see more photos of the workspace here. For more on the importance of office design, see this PDF report featuring the Civic Accommodation Transformation project.