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EXCLUSIVE Inside Canon UK's environment-friendly building in Reigate

Author : David Strydom

05 March 2015

Canon UK headquarters
Canon UK headquarters

At Canon UK sustainability and FM are inextricably linked. PFM visited the Woodhatch site in Reigate to report on the effectiveness of this approach.

Click on Canon UK’s website and you’ll find sustainability listed on a menu alongside other corporate mainstays such as management, business solutions and marketing and PR. Dig deeper and you’ll unearth a page detailing the company’s corporate responsibility, the UN global compact, and Canon’s philosophy, as well as how it complies with various sustainability regulations.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the company has sustainability etched into its DNA. Take the building of Woodhatch, its Canon UK headquarters in Reigate, for instance. Canon UK had originally been headquartered in Wallington but had been scouting for new premises for a while. “While we enjoyed our offices in Wallington, we had a couple of other satellite sites we wanted to incorporate into a centralised venue, so it made sense to find somewhere new,” says Surrie Everett-Pascoe, sustainability and management systems manager.

“At one point, it looked as though Milton Keynes might be the new site, but in the end our property consultant located Woodhatch. Many of our staff live in south London and commute from there.”

There were planning restrictions, says Everett-Pascoe, because residents didn’t want anything that would jar with the landscape. “The locals wanted Canon’s building to fit into the hillside. That’s why it’s set down Cockshot Hill and spread out – it’s discreet.” Sustainability was key from the start, she says, noting that rubble onsite was used instead of it being removed as rubbish.

It took just under two years (December 1997 to November 1999) for architect David Richmond & Partners to complete the project. With a floor area of 11,068m2, the building cost £1.7m and involved external entities such as quantity surveyor Bellamy & Wareham, structural engineer Curtins Consulting Engineers, services engineer Ernest Griffiths & Sons, landscape consultant, Holden Liversedge, main contractor Wates Construction and highway engineer, Tucker Parry Knowles.

As an example of the diverse entities necessary to ensure a successful project, suppliers from several sectors were sourced: stonework was done by Ashby Stone, tiling by D & M Barton, plaster and screed by HA Boulton Flooring, roofing by Briggs Roofing and Cladding, metalwork by Crane and Rowbury, structural concrete by John Doyle Construction and the timber floor by Quiligotti.

The energy conservation concept was adopted from the outset, with the recycling of demolition material and the preservation of the original site. Solar panels generate up to 35kw of power, and energy is further conserved through various features, including a natural air-conditioning system and the use of heat-absorbing concrete. The building is landscaped to blend into the natural slope of a hill, preserving existing meadowland and trees. In addition, energy efficient office space is set round a series of courtyards in the mature landscaped grounds of an 18th century country house.

The house was in danger of demolition but, in the end, it was kept. “The lodge building isn’t a listed structure, although it is locally listed,” explains Everett-Pascoe. “I think the finance director at the time wanted to knock everything down. I’m really pleased we kept it. I’m unsure how closely we guided the architect but because of our global philosophy and because of the work Canon does on the environment and sustainability, he clearly took his brief on-board.”

Woodhatch is naturally ventilated and passively cooled at night with automatically opening windows controlled by the BMS system. Maximum use is made of daylight while harmful effects of solar gain are minimised by careful orientation and use of the brise-soleil to create shade. The offices are largely open-plan to aid natural cross ventilation and the roof is covered in thin film photo-voltaic panels – at the time of construction one of the largest installations in Europe.

The Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the building in April 2000; since then Woodhatch has received nine awards including the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust 2001 Building of the Year Award. The project achieved the highest rating by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) for its energy saving initiatives.

Other awards received include the Reigate Society Award 2000, the Civic Trust Award 2001, British Council for Offices (Best Corporate Workplace 2000), British Institute of Facility Managers (Green Office of the Year Award 1999), Institution of Structural Engineers (Structural Award 2000), Brick Awards 2000 (encompassing Best Commercial Building and Landscape Project) and the Times/Gestetner Digital Office Collection 2000.

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In 2013, Canon integrated with Océ, a Netherlands-based company that developed, manufactured and sold printing and copying hardware and related software, and which had initially been acquired by Canon in 2010. The integration meant Everett-Pascoe suddenly found herself with a much broader team. “One part of our business we acquired through the Océ acquisition is Canon Business Services (CBS) where we manage sites for customers who have outsourced not just their print-rooms but everything to do with print.” 

“We deal with major clients at these sites. Some have a requirement for certification for health and safety, and quality and environmental management. Some CBS sites have site-specific certification, so I have a dedicated person specialising in environmental management, CSR, sustainability, and I have another four staff members dealing with health and safety and quality management as well as business continuity planning and information security.”

Working closely with Everett-Pascoe is Nigel Stark, head of FM, Canon UK, who points out that there are effectively three blocks to the main building at Reigate – west, centre and east. In addition, there’s the lodge house and a stable block. Apart from Woodhatch, Stark is responsible for Canon UK buildings in Beeston, Nottingham; Brentwood, Essex; and Elstree in London.

“With respect to our real-estate portfolio, Reigate is probably the easiest building to manage,” he says. “That’s owing largely to the way it’s designed – we haven’t got as much M&E through the building, for instance, so there's less to maintain.”

However, there are distinct FM challenges with respect to Woodhatch, such as the fact ‘things get older, so we just need to ensure maintenance’. “In the nicest possible way, populating the buildings with people adds an unpredictable element. Where we have buildings that are fully air-conditioned, we get problems with people being too hot or cold. With the Reigate building, its design ensures it works for the most part. There's natural ventilation. My biggest issue is trying to make people comfortable in the buildings with the climate we have.”

Although the Brentwood base is the same age as Reigate, Stark points out a crucial difference: Woodhatch was built in collaboration with the architect while Brentwood was acquired by Canon after being built through the acquisition of Oce.

Stark has small teams at all Canon UK buildings because he tends to outsource. M&E is contracted out to Norland Managed Services while soft services (apart from catering and security) is in the hands of Strand, part of the OCS Group. “For catering we primarily use Sodexo and Artizian, while Mitie is responsible for security. Front-of-house at Reigate is done by Swiss Post, which does the post-room, reception and telephony. We initially looked at a TFM solution but found that although the chosen supplier was good at things that used to be their core business, they failed at tackling everything with the same excellence.”

Sustainability is key with regards to supplier selection, Stark says. “Our procurement team evaluates our suppliers and their environmental accreditations and philosophies are always taken into account when we go through the process. If a cleaning company, for instance, offered its services but had no sustainability policy, it would be excluded at the first phase.”

Stark adds that Canon’s real-estate guidelines insist that when a new property is sought, the environmental team is involved from the start. “They’re also involved with anything to do with our existing properties. They ensure we comply with what we need to do. We have a fairly good handle on it anyway.”

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Health and safety is one area of Everett-Pascoe’s and Stark’s jobs that overlaps. “The facilities team manages evacuation and fire marshalling, and that’s where my sustainability team manages the health and safety procedures,” says Everett-Pascoe.

“We have about 750 service technicians in the field. Sometimes they're working on live equipment, or they're on customer sites such as a nuclear power station or an offshore oil rig, and my team is responsible for their health and safety, and that of our customers. I have five in my team, including an information security specialist who focuses on contracts where security is paramount.”

In an attempt to ensure energy efficiency is maximised, Everett-Pascoe is often tested. That’s despite innovations such as infrared sensors that control heat, cold, natural ventilation and lighting. “The whole building is brilliant,” Everett-Pascoe enthuses, “but my team gets set objectives every year to reduce energy; it’s a real struggle because we’ve done everything. Unless we do something radical such as installing a ground-source heat pump or kicking everybody out the building at 3pm, what can you do? You name an energy-saving measure, we’re doing it.”

Year-on-year-on-year, Canon UK is reducing energy use, says Stark. “As soon as they bring in more people, or extend the hours, we have to figure how we’re going to keep down energy use. Apart from the lighting controls, we’ve had to optimise our plant, ensuring it doesn't come on at 3am if it’s needed only from 6am. Where we’ll get to in the end is another matter – it’s got to plateau out eventually.”

Stark says lighting has been the most successful aspect of Woodhatch. “All the lighting is controlled by infrared which means it doesn't come on unless you enter the area. The main floors already had it but we’ve looked at every other area in the building such as the toilets.”

The open-plan design has made it a functional building, ‘improving the communication’, according to Everett-Pascoe. “We’ve made very few changes to the building retrospectively, which is an indication of how well it works. Changes include placing a lip under the glass and bombproofing it.”

Stark notes that when Canon UK first took ownership of Woodhatch, there was resistance from staff to some of the adaptations they were required to make, particularly concerning removing desk bins from staff members in the open-plan office. “That was an emotional experience. I know several other companies have done it but it was still difficult implementing it here. Now the employees are used to it, nobody bothers about it – it took about three months for them to adapt.”

Everett-Pascoe is quick to point out that despite these adaptations, culture change has never been a problem for Canon UK. “Most staff joined because of our reputation and brand - they're on board from the start. We don’t have trouble persuading them to turn things off.”

Do staff members have concerns about restricted privacy in the open-plan environment? “We’re quite careful where we locate certain teams,” says Everett-Pascoe. “For instance, HR sits next to legal, so confidentiality is more easily protected. If people want to have a confidential conversation, they can book a meeting room – you wouldn’t do it in the open-plan. It’s a way of working – just like removing the desk bins – that people have to get used to.”

Stark interjects that he’s ‘actually loud on the phone, which Surrie will testify to because she sits right behind me, but if I have to have a confidential conversation, I move somewhere else. There's no distrust generated’.

Another design element that sets Woodhatch apart is the unusual shape of the ceiling – something I notice immediately on entering the workspace. “The ‘wavy’ design increases the ceiling surface area which means it has more potential for absorbing heat,” Stark explains. “If it was flat there’d be less surface area for absorption. The concrete absorbs cold air, so the building will be cold. Overnight, the windows open at the right temperature which cools down the concrete. We won an award for the best use of concrete.”

Stark says he relies heavily on his building management system software package ‘which basically upholds everything. It controls our world. It tells the windows when to open. We’re just developing a software package internally called Sharepoint because there's an immense amount of information we need to keep and share. Because we’re dealing with so many people, it’s critical everybody can get the information they need straight away’.

Everett-Pascoe and Stark report directly to directors who manage strategy at EMEA level; indirectly, they work for the finance director at Reigate, so if there are issues they can be escalated quickly. Canon UK employees are part of a structure known as matrix management, the practice of managing individuals with more than one reporting line (in a matrix organisation structure).

Everett-Pascoe and Stark have had long associations with Canon. “I started with the company about 30 years ago,” says Stark. “I came out of a recruitment agency and some guy said: ‘Are you looking for work?’ I started at Canon by unloading lorries in its new warehouse in Crawley. I then went through the service centre environment in Croydon. I started in FM 15 years ago, managing soft services only, and now I look after all of Canon for the UK.”

Does he still enjoy his job? “Yes. There's always a different challenge. There's never a dull moment. The variety is fantastic – from somebody being bitten by something one moment to ‘Canon wants to develop a new head office at wherever’ the next moment.” Born-and-bred in Sussex, he gets away from the pressures of the job by playing golf, although he professes to be ‘not very good at it’.

For her part, Everett-Pascoe was originally company secretary and head of legal for 13 years and is a qualified chartered secretary. Subsequently to that she took on responsibility for the centralised premises/services department, then completed a stint as European director CSR, environment and product safety for Canon Europe before her current role.

As well as being ICSA she also has the IEMA certificate in environmental management and managed Canon’s involvement in the Royal Society of Arts WEEE Man Project (she’s a Fellow of the RSA). She spends her spare time renovating homes in the UK and France.

The close professional relationship between Everett-Pascoe and Stark makes it clear Canon UK takes sustainability as seriously as it boasts about on its website. Theirs is a good example of a partnership that inextricably links FM and sustainability, with several benefits to the company.


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