Alexander Forbes, one of South Africa’s largest legacy diversified financial services businesses, is moving its 2 200 Johannesburg staff into a new eight storey, R840-million, 36 950 square metre head office at 115 West Street, Sandton, between 1st September and 1st October 2012.
Since 115 West is one of Sandton’s, and indeed South Africa’s, most innovative buildings, the move neatly echoes Alexander Forbes’ recent, equally ground breaking, rebranding.
While demonstrating significant transformation and revitalising change – 115 West is more than simply a new work space from where clients are served. Instead, the building symbolises Alexander Forbes’ new beginnings.
“Over the past two years we commenced a new language that amplifies our higher purpose and our ethos to SERVE. We do this through the provision of impactful service that touches people’s lives. The delivery of expert solutions with simplicity in order to build long term relationships that are collectively enriching, is premised on us working hard to earn the trust of all stakeholders” says Edward Kieswetter, Group Chief Executive, Alexander Forbes.
And on the theme of change, breaking with the past and collective enrichment, 115 West Street pulls out all the stops.
Accredited with a 4-star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa, 115 West is both energy and resource-efficient and environmentally responsible – incorporating design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of development on the environment and the users of the building.
For example, the trees removed to create 115 West have been replaced with even more new trees, integrated into the design and work spaces of the building. Echoing the green theme, the atrium is designed as a forest-like canopy with South Africa’s most sophisticated retractable sunscreen systems intelligently linked to wind and solar sensors. These, combined with state of the art double glazing, control, conserve, store and focus light, energy and heat so efficiently that 115 West literally saves hundreds of kilowatt hours each day.
Furthermore, a state of the art grey water system draws waste water from all showers, while a rain water filter harvests water to flush the toilets and irrigate the gardens, trees and ‘living walls’ that create the open, sun-filtered natural interior of the building.
On the theme of retaining all that is sacred to the business, 115 West Street is also all about people, transparency, sharing, delivery and service. “It’s an environment that physically embodies our SERVE model, or the way we do business” says Kieswetter. In fact, the SERVE graphic is being used in all the pause areas, consistently reinforcing Alexander Forbes’ corporate values. In this way “Simplicity, Expertise, Relationships, Value of trust and Enriching lives is literally built into the walls of our building – just as integrally as they are built into everything we do” adds Kieswetter.
Furthermore, Alexander Forbes’ commitment to its higher purpose, enhancing the quality of life and providing peace of mind, is reflected in how “115 West accommodates and treats people – employees, clients and visitors” adds Kieswetter.
A key objective in the design of Alexander Forbes’ new headquarters was the health and wellbeing of staff since this is critical in delivering the businesses promise to clients.
As such, users of the building have access to an elegant dining space, finished with calm and restful stone counter tops and bamboo panelling, forming a neutral base for vibrant dining. A day crèche provides a fun and interactive indoor environment for children with stimulating wallpapers surrounding classrooms and playroom, providing stimulation and interest for children. A 200 seat auditorium provides space, in house, for even large gatherings and conferences, maximising convenience and reducing staff travel and carbon footprint. The same motivation was behind the inclusion of a world class, fully staffed gym accessible to all staff, in house.
Also, with 115 West located directly across the road for the Sandton Gautrain station, employees as well as visitors will have the option of using energy and pollution efficient public transport instead of motor vehicles when possible.
In short, “our staff will enjoy a more natural and healthy environment, with increased circulation of fresh air, reduced heat loads, numerous pause and other plant-filled break-out areas, combined with state of the art work stations and the latest information and building technology” says Kieswetter.
Most importantly, however, “the move, like our recent rebranding, is an expression of confidence in ourselves and the future of our country and continent – as well as a practical commitment to helping staff reach their potential while supporting social transformation and environmental responsibility” said Kieswetter.