Ensuring that one of the nation’s leading insurers is best represented in the built environment is all in a day’s work for Inhouse Brand Architects. The corporate brand custodians for Santam’s built brand, Inhouse has created an interior brand manual for Santam and ever since has been responsible for rolling out the interior strategy for the large corporate. Inhouse’s latest completed project for Santam involved refurbishing the reception area, lobby and corporate offices in two of the company’s buildings on the Durbanville campus.
After first completing two other floors in the building, Inhouse Director Phillip Wyatt turned his attention to the ground floor main reception foyer. To uplift the entrance and create a welcoming yet professional first impression, Wyatt retiled the area and introduced a new reception desk and waiting lounge.
Inhouse designed a convenient meeting room adjacent to this waiting area, which is used as an informal client meeting space. This clever addition removes the need for outside guests to pass past the security checkpoints and into the building interior. It also speaks to the brief, in that Inhouse was also asked to upgrade the access control system for the building.
In line with this, the lift lobby was upgradedwith glass cladding, as well as overhead bulkheads and pendant light features were introduced. A slatted screen creates an element of privacy and cordons off the reception from the lift lobby yet without closing them off entirely.
Santam’s brief highlighted the importance of an environmentally friendly and sustainable office design. Inhouse therefore ensured that energy-efficient lighting and eco-friendly sanitary ware were installed throughout. In all cases, says Wyatt, “we made a conscious effort to source proudly South African, locally manufactured finishes as well as renewable materials such as glass.”
In the bathroom upgrade, Inhouse deployed new sensor taps and urinals in order to make the interior more environmentally conscious. Bathrooms weren’t neglected in their design execution, “as they are an important part of the office experience,” Wyatt explains, “and shouldn’t be an afterthought.”
Once beyond the ground floor, Inhouse applied space-planning principles in order to reconfigure the office layout into an open-plan constellation, while taking Santam’s corporate identity into account. The brand manual requires that any space-planning allows for different levels of meeting spaces, from campsites all the way through to boardrooms.
Wyatt also introduced centrally located printer stations, rather than a printer at each work station, to create efficiency, with lounge areas placed nearby as secondary meeting spaces. These pause areas are always important in offices as they act as recharging stations for staff but also allow for collaboration and congregation. “To see the staff members benefitting from space planning principals which foster collaboration and productivity, has been a definite highlight of this project,” Wyatt says.
Where standalone offices were needed, a frameless glass walling system was used to maximize the transparency and allow natural light into the space. Meeting rooms were treated in a similar way, but with an awareness of the acoustic and AV requirements, as well as the need for privacy. The main meeting rooms were situated in the central area of each floor – a continuance of Santam’s desire to make the most of access to natural light throughout the surrounding areas.
Over the years, Inhouse has developed a bespoke office furniture system for Santam, which was created in conjunction with Santam’s furniture supplier CO Designs. It is a custom-built range that covers all of Santam’s particular needs, from filing through to desking. The range is exclusive and features design details that make it unique to the Santam’s brand. For example, each desk displays a yellow triangle insignia that is part of the steel sub-structure of the desk system.
The desking system is bench-style and is a much more economical way of designing an open plan layout than the older L-shape workstation footprint. The new system hasresulted in increased workspace and allows for easy adaptation.
Inhouse continued its personalised design approach to this project by creating stimulating typographical visual elements that were used throughout the office space. These graphics have since been incorporated into Santam’s Corporate Identity and have been rolled out in their offices on a national level.