Updating the outdated: Bringing a fitout into the 21st C

by FM Media
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The GPT Group shares how it transformed its existing head office in the MLC Centre into a green, collaborative 21st century workplace and realised the highest satisfaction rating among its employees compared to any other office measured in Australia.

The MLC Centre is a world-renowned, Harry Seidler-designed masterpiece located in Martin Place in Sydney. In its day, it was one of the tallest buildings in the world. Thirty-three years on, it presented us with the opportunity to aim for an Australian first – to produce a six-star Green Star rated office within an existing older building that had not been refurbished, an achievement that was realised in July 2012.
The new work environment provides our staff with leading edge facilities and technologies that facilitate their best work. It offers the diversity required of workspaces and facilities now and into the future by taking into account an increasingly diverse workforce, as well as the evolving nature of work in the 21st century. To this end, the facilities and spaces have been designed to support innovation and collaboration.
Our new work environment aims to:

  • provide greater people connection to maximise opportunities for knowledge sharing, innovation and collaboration
  • integrate technology such as soft phones and wireless laptops to support flexibility and efficiency
  • establish a pride in the workplace to help retain and attract staff
  • set the standard in environmental and social sustainability, and
  • provide a model of how buildings like the MLC Centre can respond to the changing needs of tenants.

Throughout the project, our focus was to involve its people in every phase, so that the brief would meet the needs of its diverse workforce and create ownership of the office. To achieve this, all MLC Centre-based employees were surveyed on several occasions on their views of the existing work environment. The findings from these surveys helped inform the key focus areas for the new workplace.
Combined with the insights from our employees and backed up by hands-on property experience, we pulled together a cross-section of creative individuals to formulate the aspirational brief. The brief was very clear. Our people wanted an environment that would offer or facilitate:

  • freedom of information and knowledge sharing
  • a diversity of work and casual settings
  • integration and collaboration between business units
  • an inspiring environment that promoted creative thinking, and
  • an environment that reflected what we do, promoted well-being, and allowed greater utilisation of space, as well as ‘future proof’ the business for growth.

The 3700-square metre refit has set a new environmental standard in materials reuse and selection, lighting and mechanical design. The key ecologically sustainable development changes include chilled beam cooling systems, the reuse or recycling of all of the old fitout materials, use of environmentally sensitive paints, carpets and adhesives and a computer-based lighting control system.
Prior to our old office being demolished a detailed audit of all existing materials and equipment was completed and catalogued. In some cases, materials were rejuvenated and used in a different form. For example, dark-stained timber used in the new joinery was recycled from the timber panelling in the old fitout, and office chairs were reupholstered and re-gassed.
The aim was to also achieve the maximum recycling rate. The result was that more than 80 percent of waste generated during construction was reused or recycled.
To provide improved indoor air quality, more than 500 plants were introduced into the workspace and to assist with reducing energy consumption, lighting levels in meeting rooms have been pre-set at 50 percent.

The decision to transform our workplace provided an opportunity to achieve cultural change and align the workplace with our new vision. Essential to the success of the new work environment was an investment in our staff to prepare them for a new way of working.
This was achieved through a bespoke engagement and training program. Over a period of 12 months, all our employees underwent a series of training sessions and workshops that enabled them to hit the ground running from day one in the new workplace.
A recent survey of employees showed that they had embraced the new MLC workspace. Almost all are using the new technology available to work more effectively and efficiently, while nine out of 10 say there is also a greater opportunity to collaborate with other teams and that they wouldn’t go back to working the old way.

A post-occupancy evaluation survey conducted 12 months after the opening of the refurbishment found that the office had the highest satisfaction rating among its employees compared to any other office measured in the country. The survey, which was conducted by Arup, assessed temperature, air quality, light and noise, and rated the design, productivity and health within the office environment.
The occupancy evaluation was benchmarked against 55 other Australian office spaces. The employee survey produced results rating the new office:

  • number one for occupant satisfaction
  • in the top three percent for its occupant comfort
  • second highest score for design, and
  • perceived productivity in the top 10 percent of Australian offices.

The model implemented provides a solution to those companies thinking they have to leave Sydney’s CBD in order to achieve a world-class work environment for their employees. “We have shown how you can adapt existing buildings to achieve the type of collaborative workspace required for success in the 21st century,” comments Michael Cameron, GPT chief executive officer and managing director.
“The proof is in the analysis and, while the innovation of our refurbished office has been well-documented, we now have the hard data to create a clear picture and a business case for the benefits that can be delivered to the workforce.”


  • 90 percent less paper stored
  • 75 percent less paper used
  • 50 percent less energy used
  • lighting energy consumption down by 70 percent
  • fresh air intake increased by 25 percent with the addition of external louvres into the façade
  • 500 plants were added
  • 320 lockers, 272 desks, 77 percent occupancy
  • 100 percent of pre-existing equipment and fitout either recycled or reused
  • staff moved from being spread across five floors to being consolidated across three floors, and
  • a more mobile and engaged workforce.

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