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Sky-high expectations within the vertical city

03 September 2018

Managing Western Europe’s tallest building provides a number of unique challenges, which are met through high levels of collaboration with all partners and a one-team culture with service providers.

Meeting expectations is never a simple matter, as illustrated by John Lydgate’s well-known saying: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.”

This can also be seen to increase on an exponential basis when applied to high numbers of people, with yet more complexity driven by the need to accommodate the needs of a wide variety of business, leisure and retail occupiers, all types of service providers and thousands of workers and visitors in attendance on a daily basis.

While the above applies to The Shard, firmly established on the global stage as one of the world’s most iconic buildings, further consideration needs to be given for the added demand involving the running of the Shard Quarter, seen as a major driver within the revitalisation of the London Bridge area and the South Bank region, which includes The News Building and the ongoing construction of the 26-storey Shard Place.

Yet more consideration needs to be added to the fact that The Shard is immediately adjacent to London Bridge station, further increasing the already dizzying list of what needs to be factored into every aspect of the running of the building.

These demands are met by Real Estate Management (UK) (REM) in overseeing daily operations through the use of a mixture of old-fashioned common sense and intelligent application of new technology.

An example of the latter can be seen in the comprehensive internal portal (My Vertical City), created for REM by Locale, which has been developed to meet a wide range of requirements and delivery of aspects such as the booking of loading bays, induction for new starters, information on all occupants, application for The Shard Card and all other aspects involved in the creation of a digital community hub.

The Shard Quarter general manager Danny Lemon and REM director of property management Andrew Thomson gave PFM an exclusive insight into the innovations established that have not only succeeded in making architect Renzo Piano’s design a reality, but also in meeting – and frequently exceeding – the expectations of the long list of businesses, partners and individuals involved.

“The Shard was designed by Renzo Piano as a vertical city and we work very closely with everyone on site to deliver his vision.

"One of the things we have to get people to realise initially is that the potential for them to impact on other occupants is exponentially higher in a vertical building, so it’s essential to establish effective communications with all occupiers as soon as possible,” says Mr Lemon.

Danny Lemon, general manager, Shard Quarter

He describes the extensive efforts made by REM team members to encourage collaboration with all parties involved.

The fact that this was seen as an essential requirement before the first occupants moved in illustrates the management company’s attention to detail from the outset.

“There’s constant effort to maintain high levels of communication in all areas,” Mr Lemon continues. “We place a great deal of importance on having very strong relationships with all our partners.”

This begins before occupiers sign their lease to ensure that the relationship is already in place before they move in, he continues, and is a practice seen to be essential in creating a positive start.

Occupants are then invited to regular meetings, including both social and networking events.

“There’s a genuine community spirit that includes everyone at The Shard and we also make sure this includes other businesses, schools and colleges in the local area, along with the emergency services and utility companies,” says Mr Lemon.

Examples of these efforts include hosting meetings for the Metropolitan Police, or other emergency service providers, along with Transport for London and additional support provided for local schools, charities, hospitals and organisations, such as Borough Market.

Further emphasis on the complexity of managing The Shard is provided by Mr Thomson, who states that eight out of the main 10 recognised business categories are represented on site:

“They all require different types of communication and they all have very different priorities, which are carefully handled by our occupant relationship team that collaborates with key principal company representatives.

Andrew Thomson, director of property management, REM

“We run a single database for all departments to communicate, which is co-ordinated by the occupancy team,” he continues.

“You have to have a disciplined approach and ensure that the correct protocols are followed to meet the high standards required.”

Meetings with occupants are held on a regular basis by the occupancy team, which then communicates with REM colleagues, service providers and other organisations where necessary.

These meetings are also used by REM to collaborate before carrying out maintenance, servicing and repairs.

“In a building that operates on a 24-hour basis, we have to give a lot of thought on the best times for these activities to be carried out,” says Mr Thomson.

“A quiet time for one occupier may be the busiest for another, but this is where strong relationships are essential in providing the best solution for everyone.”

Advance planning is essential when considering the size and complexity of The Shard, he continues.

“For example, we have 1,800 fire doors on site, so if we need to carry out maintenance on these, it’s a major project that has to be planned a long way ahead.”

One of the aspects of the site that takes time to adjust to is that in a building with as many levels as The Shard, there is a natural tendency to visit the floors required for any purpose.

“This means you may go a long time between visits to certain floors or areas, which is another important reason in keeping everyone in touch and aware of what’s happening on a daily basis,” says Mr Thomson.

Messrs Thomson and Lemon describe the extensive focus on all aspects of security involved in the running of the building.

This has been helped by a change in attitude towards security checks in recent years, says Mr Thomson, which has seen both companies and employees adjust from seeing these as an intrusion to being viewed as a necessary and welcome part of creating safe working environments.

“There’s a constant investment in the security of the building,” Mr Lemon says, “which has created a sensible, layered approach that includes careful segregation where necessary and appropriate.

"We’ve also conducted penetration testing throughout the building and have made changes where this has shown to be needed.”

REM has adopted a zero tolerance approach to deter urban adventurers from accessing the site, which includes the posting of injunction notices at all entrances.

In addition, the company shares knowledge with landlords, local MPs and other interested parties to assist in raising security levels in all areas of the general community.

At the time of PFM’s visit, REM was part way through re-procurement of services following its first five-year term.

The company regards this exercise as a valuable opportunity to adjust provisions to meet the building’s future requirements, with the same high level of detail adhered to as with all the other aspects of running the building when procuring new services.

With the aim of partnering with those best suited to meet the needs of the building and its occupiers, service providers are assessed on details such as how they train and pay their staff, to find those which have established the business cultures to match those of REM and therefore most likely to be able to deliver consistency and quality in the desired areas.

Although involved in the management of Western Europe’s tallest and one of its most iconic buildings, REM is managing to keep its feet firmly on the ground through maintaining a one-team culture with its industry partners and continuing to extend its exemplary relationships with all those on site and in the surrounding community.

The Shard at a glance

Levels 2 to 28: office accommodation for 33 companies operating across eight business categories

Levels 31 to 33: oblix, Hutong and aqua shard bars and restaurants

Levels 34 to 52: Shangri-La Hotel

Levels 53 to 65: Private apartments

Levels 68 to 72: The View from The Shard

The top of the spire is equivalent to 95 storeys high (309.6m, 1,016ft).

Footprint: 1 acre

Total space: more than 33 acres, including 36 lifts and 49 lift cars

Glass panes: more than 11,000, covering 56,000 sq m

Visitors: average total of 15,000 per day

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