Big on comfort and light on impact… Citibank’s West Street makeover was geared towards staff well-being and productivity


When Citibank, anchor tenant in an A-grade office development in West Street in the heart of Sandton, opted to sell the building to Accelerate Property Fund, it retained the top two floors on an extended lease and set about a major revamp. ‘The objective was to increase the spatial efficiencies of their office layout, while aligning with their global initiative,’ says Candice Manning, sustainability lead at AECOM, the multinational engineering company selected by Citibank to achieve this. ‘What underpinned the revamp was the metamorphosis of moving from a predominantly closed office environment to an open-plan, integrated set-up with fun collaborative zones supported by brand-new technology,’ says Surasen Naidu, head of corporate realty services at Citibank. ‘Citi’s prescriptive and globally tested design guidelines underpinned this exciting project while allowing for flexibility and local influence by the consultants.’

Aligning with that initiative meant not only celebrating the brand through use of specific colours and the crisp contemporary design epitomised by its distinctive logo, but making use of suppliers in the local market to achieve efficiencies and savings, and promoting sustainability and staff well-being too. The former is measured by achieving what Citibank hopes will be an LEED Commercial Interiors (CI) gold rating (the process is still under way).

LEED is all about minimising environmental impact while maximising occupant comfort and the performance of tenant spaces, and is the industry benchmark for green design and construction of tenant improvements. ‘With an LEED-CI-certified space, employers not only invest in employees’ morale and well-being but also their productivity,’ notes its website. ‘LEED-CI credits specifically focus on proven contributors to employee productivity – thermal comfort, access to daylight and views, minimising interior pollutants, and controllability of lighting and temperature.’

These considerations played a major role in the design phase, in terms of the correct material selection and construction methods to be able to achieve a ‘high-end sustainable project within the given budget’, says Manning. ‘Materials such as low-VOC paint, joinery items with low formaldehyde content, and finishes with high green or sustainability ratings were specified.‘Other factors such as sustainable LED light fittings, DALI [digital addressable lighting interface] system implementation for daylight harvesting, and sustainable mechanical design were also taken into consideration during the design phase for the LEED accreditation, and throughout the floor area various recycle bins were allocated.’

As if achieving all this were not challenging enough, Citibank also required that the consolidation of what had been three-and-a-half floors of Citibank offices into two floors (a refurbished area of 7 500 m²) be achieved while full day-to-day work operations continued. ‘It meant working and moving within a live office environment during a 10-month construction period from March 2018 to January this year,’ says Manning. ‘The spaces Citibank would be vacating were used as swing-space for staff while the renovation work was carried out.’

To allow Citibank staff to continue working safely and healthily throughout construction, HVAC protection made sure that dust and construction debris did not accumulate in HVAC ducts, says Norbert Szircsak of Colliers International, an LEED-accredited consultancy. Strategies included wrapping HVAC ducts in plastic and storing ductwork in dust-free areas before installing. ‘Source control was implemented, to address the sources of construction pollution. Strategies included using low-VOC materials and storing VOC-containing materials away from absorptive materials. Pathway interruption was implemented for the ceiling spray, using negative pressure and/or temporary hanging plastic to contain areas that may have generated construction dust, for example, wood-cutting and drywall-cutting areas. Housekeeping kept a clean work site by sweeping, wet mopping and using low-VOC cleaners, while the movement of occupants to minimise their exposure to construction debris was co-ordinated by schedule.’

Use of a full building information model service with virtual renders presented to the client ensured a clash-free design and construction review before going on-site, obviating wasteful U-turns, while a construction-waste management plan reduced waste, and an indoor air-quality management plan was followed during and after construction.

The design brief and Citi Global workplace guidelines placed great emphasis on the implementation of new technologies and a collaborative working environment, and on improving that environment by means of ‘enforced clean-desk policies, collaborative work-sharing and active recycling’. They also required the distinctive use of colour for ‘way-finding and accent areas’.

The interior design concept was derived from key factors, says Manning. ‘Simplicity, and being both organic and neutral. The main idea was to create a comfortable yet urban office space that is trendy, with the use of strong visual patterns and shapes to make the space interesting.’

The AECOM design team, working with Trend Group (an office construction specialist whose clients have ranged from Red Bull and Uber to Google, Facebook, Coca-Cola and Porsche) responded in style. They used colour and geometric shapes (circles, hexagons, rectangles) in striking wall, floor and ceiling features and in custom-made tables and lights, to indicate specific collaboration areas. ‘The overall space plan is quite fluid,’ says Manning. ‘The layout is based around the two central atriums of the building, with enclosed offices and huddle-rooms around the core. Open-plan design faces the edge of the building towards the facade, and staff and clients are able to freely circulate around the building.’

The floorplate is divided into four main quadrants, each having its own accent colour, extracted from the Citi Global guidelines, to assist with ‘way-finding’. The four colours – aqua, plum, ochre and lime green – have been used in floor inserts, decorative wall panelling and furniture, highlighting the collaborative working areas and making the spaces cohesive.

Aqua has been continued throughout the entire space, tying all the quadrant colours together, along with extensive use of white, which also emphasises the accent colours, making them ‘pop’ in every sense. The mood created is fresh and energetic, with a hint of 1960s pop-art nostalgia and humour.

Warmth has been provided by natural wood in geometrically-patterned panels between sections, clean-lined cupboards and display features, curvaceous tables and elongated sofas. A wood-finish low-maintenance vinyl flooring alternates with functional, neutral grey carpeting. ‘Sustainability was considered all along the way,’ says Jacques Lee, project manager at Trend Group, which managed the full fit-out, working with drawings from AECOM. ‘We recycled what we could of the original fittings, and whatever we threw out we skipped individually – wood with wood, glass with glass, and so on – so it could be recycled. Then we sourced whatever we could locally to save on carbon footprint and on cost. And we had pieces made.’

Lee’s favourite feature? The diner-style banquettes in the breakaway spaces created between departments, encouraging workers to get together for coffee or to eat lunch. Manning’s favourite, however, is the floating ‘ceiling canopies’ used to create a ‘semi-exposed soffit ceiling [while] still having the flexibility of a grid system across the floorplate for services and lighting’. She also enjoys the ‘innovative use of linear and hexagon lighting features and the integration of technology [into] spaces, especially in the collaborative areas such as the meeting and huddle rooms’.


Colliers International


Trend Group



By Glynis Horning
Images: Trend Group, Aecom, Citibank

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