A Vision of Success

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-By Jaime McKee

Sir Isaac Newton once uttered the famous words: “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Acknowledging his own accomplishments as a natural philosopher, Newton was also humbly remarking on the great achievements of those who came before him. Many modern construction and design companies find themselves in much the same position as Newton and so many others have – working to make their mark upon a well-established industry with its own experts, its own history, its own giants.

But what of those companies who are themselves the giants? The great successes who have not only stood the test of time but continued to grow ever stronger? The ones who have weathered storms of recession, industry shake-ups, and changes in the marketplace? Can a long-standing company continue to change as the industry demands it? Can a “giant” of the industry also be at its vanguard? More pointedly, can a company that has thrived for nearly 150 years be an agent of change? Global design studio Woods Bagot is proving that the answer is yes.

A firm established in 1869, Woods Bagot specialises in design and consulting across three broad sectors: Lifestyle, Workplace, and Education and Science. Its multi-disciplinary team consists of over 700 individuals operating in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Originating down under, Woods Bagot gradually grew into the global company it is today, essentially by maintaining strong relationships with its clients as they themselves grew. With thoughtful attention to detail, and a keen understanding of the cultural, regional, environmental, and operational needs of its clients, Woods Bagot is able to offer its services in the areas of architecture, urban design, consulting, interior design, master planning, and design management.

The visually stunning and comprehensive Woods Bagot website, www.woodsbagot.com, speaks to an ambitious vision: “By 2010 we will be a global leader in design and consulting underpinned by research”. Mr Rodger Dalling, Managing Director, Australia, does not equivocate when stating that Woods Bagot has reached this goal. Recognised as a leader in its field and honoured with a number of regional and international awards to this end, Woods Bagot has risen to the top of the world stage by continuing to be “intelligent, adaptive, nimble and innovative”. This venerable company is not one to rest on its laurels; even in the year of his company’s vision’s coming to fruition, Mr Dalling and his colleagues are already looking to the future, to the next path upon which Woods Bagot will embark.

In a hint of what is to come, Mr Dalling speaks excitedly about his company’s vision of sustainability. He sees the environment as being at the very heart of upcoming Woods Bagot operations, and with such a clear vision, the firm certainly seems poised to take the lead in this area. Mr Dalling considers it a key role of architects, designers, and engineers to create a mindset where sustainability is “valued and achievable”. Working with communities, taking a holistic approach to energy conservation, and looking to markets making innovative strides in environmental sustainability, Woods Bagot has set very high standards for itself and is eager to work with communities and clients who do the same. Says Mr Dalling, “we’ve certainly got the engineering and clever design capability to do it”; the key is to work collectively to demonstrate that it can happen. “We can lead through projects”.

In fact, such ground-breaking projects have already begun to take shape under Woods Bagot’s leadership. Adelaide’s City Central Tower 1 is South Australia’s first 5 Star Green Star Certified project, showcasing passive chilled beam technology to increase energy efficiency, and transforming the workplace for tenants through the introduction of abundant fresh air and natural light. The Deloitte Centre located at 80 Queen Street, Auckland, New Zealand has been called “the most environmentally sustainable commercial office building in the country”, seeing 96% of its waste recycled and 75% of construction waste reused or otherwise diverted from the landfill. A 23 level office tower, this innovative structure utilises grey water recycling and ventilated facade technology, and features winter gardens as well as reduced operational energy, water consumption, and CO2 emissions. And the ZERO-E pilot project in Chongqing, China represents the very leading edge in efficient design; a dynamic industrial development, the ZERO-E project will feature a “holistic resource system” integrating photovoltaics, solar thermal panels, absorption chillers, a biogas fuel cell and a waste digester, all working together to improve building performance while minimising resource consumption and waste.

What truly sets Woods Bagot apart in this realm, however, is that, in its view, “sustainability” doesn’t just apply to the natural environment; it also applies to people. The firm aims to encompass “the human dimension of sustainable development, seeking to create socially and economically thriving communities”. To this end, Woods Bagot conducts its own in-depth research through its global research brand PUBLIC. PUBLIC captures new and emerging knowledge and acts as a platform for clients, staff and partners to share ideas and challenge conventional theory. By looking deeply and holistically at the communities which will house its buildings, at the people who will inhabit them, and at the needs and wishes of both, Woods Bagot ensures that it can deliver thoughtful and appropriate design solutions to all of its clients.

The company’s philosophy of examining needs and innovating to meet them even extends to the workspaces of Woods Bagot itself. The company refers to these spaces as “studios” rather than offices, and Mr Dalling says that they are, indeed, studios in function and form. Designed to “deconstruct the workplace” by fostering creativity and encouraging the open exchange of ideas, the Woods Bagot studio approach sees team members come together to share knowledge and work on tasks, then dissemble again, only to join with another group on a new task. “Our business,” Mr Dalling says, “is not about being in an office; we operate differently.” Staff members aren’t pinned down to a strict, segmented area; they are free to diversify their experience and offer ideas to varied projects and tasks.

Of course, being a global company adds yet another dimension to the workforce capacity of Woods Bagot. The diversified experience and cultural insight brought to the table by team members around the world gives Woods Bagot a unique depth of perspective, and enables the firm to work around the clock, without boundaries or borders, combining international expertise with contextual knowledge. Mr Dalling describes the company’s collective capacity as “mind-blowing”; “that capacity, when we harness and apply it is extraordinary… when that energy begins to apply itself, it’s phenomenal.”

Mr Dalling speaks in no less enthusiastic terms about many of his company’s projects. He describes Sydney’s award-winning ivy as a “sensational project… great to look at, and great to be in”. A 20,000 m2 multi-purpose structure, ivy comprises boutique retail spaces, restaurants and bars, a live music venue, a 1000-person capacity function room, a two-level office facility, two 500 m2 penthouses, and a lifestyle complex including a pool club and spa. Mr Dalling speaks of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre with similar excitement. A major infrastructure project, Mr Dalling calls it “a fantastic collaboration, technically demanding, and a very interesting delivery”, which saw Woods Bagot look beyond the immediate site to creating an entire retail precinct and adjacent facilities.

To hear a long-standing company director speak in such glowing terms about his company’s work is inspiring; it speaks to the dynamism and spirit still very much alive at Woods Bagot. The firm’s collective, global energy gives it the capacity to adapt, innovate, and flourish in an ever-changing market, while its “clarity of purpose” and strong sense of commitment to its clients gives it the drive to raise and exceed expectations, rather than simply meet them. Woods Bagot is indeed a giant of its industry, but it is a nimble one: seeing further – even, perhaps into the next 150 years – comes with ease to such an innovative firm.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 1:04 AM AEST