5 Things We Can Learn From Christchurch About Office Space
With 92 hectares of the city’s CBD initially cordoned off, post-earthquake Christchurch had to be flexible with its nine-to-five arrangements. Although it’s now back to hosting 215,000 square metres of office space, the Canterbury Development Corporation reckons it’s still less than half of what it used to take up. But spending your working day in the upstairs of a cafe and setting up banks in shipping containers has had its advantages – which businesses in other cities could use to their advantage as well.
1. Think outside the concrete box
While many CBD based businesses moved into existing office space in the suburbs, many others looked outside the usual concrete or plywood square for centrally located space. The people behind AW Architects and Deflux Design, for example, met while temporarily working above their mutual friends’ cafe C1, and decided to make the arrangement more permanent. But first they had to look beyond some seeming impermanence. The two level printing premises they tracked down was pencilled in to be demolished, so some strengthening and restoration work was in order. But, not before some intensive creative visualisation had taken place. Add to this a solid self-sourcing effort on materials and they managed to piece together a pretty special place without running up huge debts.
2. Maybe size doesn’t matter
Lincoln University’s study, Impacts of the Canterbury Earthquake on the Commercial Office Market, found that two thirds of the businesses surveyed work in a smaller office than they did before the quakes – with a third occupying half the space that they once did. Yet, 40% said they wouldn’t go back to a bigger office, as they had adapted, found turnover remained stable, and 51% were paying less rent for this lessened space. Of course this meant being more shrewd in the use of it; planning out every square inch rather than letting desks multiply organically, as well as investing in clever storage solutions.
3. Location, location, whatever. Or wherever
Although many of the businesses that had to move out of the CBD post quakes initially said they had plans to move back, 68% of occupiers surveyed in the Lincoln study have since changed their minds. Having found that a CBD location has become irrelevant to their businesses, respondents have instead found proximity to public transport to be the most important locational factor for staff. Green spaces also ranked highly – and there tend to be a few more of them outside of the CBD.
4. Know what’s happening in your city
The great majority of respondents in the Lincoln survey – 78% – were familiar with Christchurch’s Central City Plan. Do you know the inner workings of yours? With exciting developments such as Auckland’s City Rail Link underway, it is worth acquainting yourself with what could be in your new office neighbourhood before your next move.
5. Talk to your landlord. With an A3 pad and a Sharpie
We’ve all seen a Disney movie or two in our time – y’know, we can do amazing things when we work together. But seriously though, we can. Christchurch’s latest neighbourhood, the West End is a great example of this. A group of 12 landlords and businesses in a loop of the Avon River got together to rebrand their area as the place to work and play. Although this made sense as the area was once the city’s first to attract arts and culture, the successful restoration of this heritage was down to the group alone – and the PR firm they hired – and was a New Zealand first for a group of private property owners.
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