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How to execute a Stage 4 design

The client

IdeaSpace, part of the University of Cambridge and managed by Cambridge Enterprise, is a community of founders and entrepreneurs across three locations in Cambridge.

The company provides Start-ups and University Spin-outs with a flexible workspace and supportive environment to help them develop their innovative ideas and grow their venture.

The brief

After a comprehensive tender process, we were awarded the contract and appointed to deliver IdeaSpace’s new office space in Hauser Forum.

We worked closely with the design team at Ralph+Smith to bring the client’s vision to life while remaining within budget and retaining the initial look and feel of the design.

Curves and collaboration

The Stage 4 design, devised by Ralph+Smith, saw the creation of a space that caters to collaboration, offering informal meeting zones, and focus areas as well as meeting rooms. The design draws from the client’s logo and leverages curves to create visual interest and separation between the zones.

The challenges

The primary challenge arose when our team demolished the existing slab-to-slab partitions to adapt to the new open-plan office space. Once the demolition was complete the team was met with an uneven and, therefore, inadequate subfloor.

To mitigate the risk of this impacting the programme of the project, we addressed this unexpected issue quickly by:

  • Installing a brand-new raised access floor
  • Relaying the floor
  • Ensuring all health & safety standards were met

Other challenges included:

  • Working in a tenanted building: This was particularly important in this project as the electrical circuits were connected to the floor below, so any changes or adjustments had to be made carefully.
  • Procurement of bespoke joinery: This project required a high level of bespoke joinery due to the use of curves throughout the design. To minimise disruptions to the programme, we engaged with our long-standing and trusted suppliers.
ideaSpace curved meeting room

The solution

Proactive and honest communication

Being based in Cambridge allowed us to not only mobilise to site promptly, but also to be highly responsive to any site queries or issues.

We quickly built a very close relationship with both the client and the external design team.

Having a good working relationship with the conceptual design team is incredibly important to us, particularly when carrying out a Stage 4 design. It was this collaborative approach that enabled us to interpret the designers’ vision for the space, whilst identifying and preventing any issues which could arise during the fit-out.

Agile and adaptable team

Despite the scope of the project being amended, our team was still able to complete the project within the programme.

This included the addition of the renovation / uplift of the toilets and shower room, which meant we had to be agile in adapting the existing programme, whilst working closely with Ralph+Smith to finalise the design; all without impacting the practical completion date.

The uplift included:

  • Vinyl wrapping the existing cubicles.
  • Changing vanity panels to a wood effect to match the wood accents present in the open-plan office.
  • Updating the shower room with all-new wall tiles and terrazzo flooring that matches the one in the breakout area.
ideaSpace shower room

Previous work with universities

Having previously worked with universities, we were able to easily engage the incumbent supply chain, and seamlessly integrate our suppliers and processes. This resulted in a smooth procurement process where issues were addressed early on, and all parties consulted throughout the project.

Ventilation and heating

Our in-house Mechanical and Electrical team adapted the existing ventilation to suit the new layout of the space and ensured the correct volumes of fresh air in both the office space and meeting rooms.

A Thorlux lighting system was also installed to help with the energy efficiency of the space. Lights are on a motion sensor and the brightness can be fully adjusted.

To provide an even higher degree of control for the client, the lighting system was connected to the building management system and can, therefore, be remotely controlled.

A number of the existing radiators were replaced with trench heating to allow for a better use of the space and to comply with health & safety regulations.

ideaspace collage of best images

The outcome

  • Breakout / social space
  • A reception area
  • A built-in phone room
  • An informal meeting / collaboration zone
  • Two focus desk areas
  • Two 2-person focus booths
  • Three meeting rooms
  • Refurbished WCs and shower room
  • A storage room

“This was such an exciting project to be a part of. As soon as we met the team at Ralph+Smith we could see that we were all going to collaborate well, and that we had a shared vision to deliver the best possible outcomes for IdeaSpace.

I’m particularly proud of the team’s agility to respond quickly to any issues which arose, engaging with designers and sub-contractors to resolve these quickly, without impacting the client’s timelines.

Together, we have completely transformed the space; from a bank of enclosed meeting rooms to the amazing open-plan office, co-working and connecting space that it now is. We hope that this new space will help innovators of the future to bring their ideas to life!”

Jerry Overhill, Operations Director, COEL

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