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Walk the talk! By Francesca Jordan from BIFM's Sustainability Special Interest Group

23-05-17, 10:04

Moving house is tough enough, but moving 250 people twice in 18 months is nothing short of masochism! Well that's what we decided to do before I retired as facilities manager of a large housing association following a staff survey that showed an overwhelming desire to move back to the old offices once they had been refurbished.

Sustainability comes in many guises, and the fact that the old offices where right next to the station (fewer travel miles), nearer to shops (work/life balance) and in an area where people felt safe at night with good social activities all led to the decision that it was more sustainable to retain staff than to have to recruit in a different area. Think on it!

We also know that moves are difficult psychologically, but they are so much easier if you have the majority of the people with you, and the way we did this was to get their buy-in on sustainability. Why throw perfectly good furniture away when it can be reupholstered to match new? In other words, why waste when the money can be used for better staff facilities, and the stuff that really didn't fit anymore someone else can make good use of?

With the help of fantastic suppliers such as FSL Interiors, Senator and local charities we managed to refurbish to a new standard, create an edgy look with other peoples' over-orders and provide start-up furniture for homeless people moving into their own home for the first time. The real rejects became home office furniture and equipment for man caves. And that was just the furniture!

The first move was the hardest, but with the help of our IT department we managed to transfer most of the paper filing onto e-storage (not an easy task as the diehards in some departments felt their world would end if they didn't have a paper copy of something on their desk).  In fact, the world didn't stop turning but secretive boxes did either go missing or turn up weeks later. In fact, we found that in the end we had stored over 90% electronically by the end of the two moves. This made the second move so much easier and we had also cut paper purchase by over 50%.

Then there was the building itself. When looking at a 60s reface office block the challenges can seem daunting. Imagine little or no insulation, dodgy windows and a heating/cooling system that came out of the Ark. There was only one thing for it and luckily our landlords and their partners, Low Carbon Workplace, came up with some innovative ideas.

Meetings rumbled on for nearly two years before all the deals were struck but we came out with a SKA Excellent rated building. Windows were changed, false ceilings removed to expose the concrete, which gave increased thermal density, and the heating/cooling was changed to chilled beams. The only fly in the ointment was the outcry when people were told that putting in cellular offices would muck up the latter. Umm, so how does that work? Well, a compromise was struck and offices went in the corners and ends of floor plates - end of!

Four years on and the building and staff are holding up well. It is fully occupied and although minor tweaks have taken place it remains much the same. How they are doing on the paper stakes we will never know as I took early retirement and signed up for a heritage project on the Isle of Wight instead.

I still keep in touch with my old colleagues and you can contact me on francescajordan59@gmail.com if you need any further details of how to survive a sustainable move (twice).

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01-06-17, 04:01 Moves #1
Brian O'Connor
Really good article Francesca. Getting staff on side is absolutely crucial and can make or break a move if not given sufficient emphasis before the moves take place. Great to see the common sense approach taken regarding furnishing and going for the upgrading of a basically suitable building to comply with current legislation and practical needs. Good luck with your move to the charity sector. Rewards can be great but the need for greater tact and forbearance with leaders who are not sufficiently experienced or confident in their decision making can be time consuming and frustrating as very often they do not accept that the person advising them has done it all before and understands what is required perfectly. I hope that doesn't sound too arrogant!
01-06-17, 04:02 Moves #2
Brian O'Connor
Really good article Francesca. Getting staff on side is absolutely crucial and can make or break a move if not given sufficient emphasis before the moves take place. Great to see the common sense approach taken regarding furnishing and going for the upgrading of a basically suitable building to comply with current legislation and practical needs. Good luck with your move to the charity sector. Rewards can be great but the need for greater tact and forbearance with leaders who are not sufficiently experienced or confident in their decision making can be time consuming and frustrating as very often they do not accept that the person advising them has done it all before and understands what is required perfectly. I hope that doesn't sound too arrogant!
 
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