Checking all the boxes for sustainability, flexibility, and modern design, Siskind’s new office in the high profile London City Centre Towers promotes collaboration and workplace wellness.
Choosing a new office space for its rapidly expanding team wasn’t easy for Siskinds LLP, a law firm with more than 250 lawyers and support staff. Ultimately, the London City Centre Towers proved to be the best solution, with onsite parking for visitors, a central downtown location, and a landmark building in London, Ontario.
While location is, of course, the key in commercial real estate, fulfilling the law firm’s vision for a sustainable, flexible space that met workers’ needs was equally important. The way people work today, with a need for collaborative spaces, small group spaces, and private environments, has changed dramatically in recent years.
Siskinds signed the lease for 65,000-square-feet, with four floors of space at the top of the building and a half-floor space at street level for easier client access in 2019. At that time, hybrid work and workplace wellness were emerging trends. But it was only post-pandemic that these things became crucial to recruit and retain top talent and to promote a positive company culture. With its design plans for the London City Centre office, Siskinds was ahead of the curve in virtually every way.
“We wanted to give staff flexibility,” Siskinds COO Brian MacDonald told London Inc. Magazine in an interview for a multi-page feature on the office space.
To Siskinds, this meant unconventional spaces that could be used for focus work, small group collaborations or even gatherings. The space needed to flow, so that all four floors plus the ground level leased by Siskinds worked as one cohesive unit. An interconnecting staircase fulfills this purpose, making every floor feel like part of the same business – which, of course, they are.
The ground floor reception area anchors 10 rooms for lawyers to meet with clients, which was important for personal injury lawyers and their clients, especially, who might not be able to navigate stairs or elevators.
State-of-the-art technology systems, including user-friendly audiovisual equipment, were crucial to meet the needs of the law firm. Designing a building with soundproofing to meet legal and confidentiality requirements, accessibility, and flexible meeting spaces were just some of the challenges.
To complete the design and construction of the project, Siskinds relied on Verto360, a design and project management firm based in Canada, with offices in London, Kitchener, Oakville, and Toronto, along with designer Nicole Monich.
“Verto360 undertook a significant scope of the renovation for Siskinds Law Firm’s new offices in London, Ontario. Creating a flexible state-of-the-art environment, with acoustical privacy as one of their principal priorities, was the goal throughout the project,” said Verto360 Chief Revolutionary Officer Andrew Lutowicz.
Beyond that, the law firm wanted to equip the offices with space for workers and clients, alike, to feel at home, to bond and connect, or even to relax and rejuvenate. With this in mind, the top-floor Plaza features an open dining area with a breakfast bar and booths, comfortable seating areas, and private, glass-encased, soundproofed rooms for phone calls and personal meetings.
The Benefits of DIRTT Prefabricated Construction Solutions
Siskinds knew that a prefabricated solution would meet their needs and provide flexibility along with state-of-the-art, sustainable building materials. When the Verto360 team presented DIRTT to the decisionmakers, there really was no question about its suitability.
“They understood that this was the way of the future which offered them advantages during the initial build out and beyond,” Lutowicz said. “The game changer for DIRTT was the almost unlimited scope of solutions and finishes available and their ICE software which was able to render any option in real time.”
Prior to the construction, Verto360 was able to provide Siskinds with true-to-life renderings that helped the client envision the end result and make changes to facilitate the right choices. Using DIRTT helped speed construction timelines while delivering customizable solutions that fit into the pre-existing space in the ways the client needed.
Understanding DIRTT and ICE
When clients choose construction companies, designers, and property managers, they often ask the contractors about their biggest competition. Lutowicz maintains the stance that Verto360’s competition is “the way we’ve been doing design/build for the past 70+ years.” This implies that the firm is always trying to exceed its own best results.
But when it comes to DIRTT construction solutions, the question becomes even more difficult to answer. “Constant comparison [of DIRTT] to traditional construction is a mistake because they don’t function the same way,” said Nicole Monich, who collaborated with Verto360 on the project design.
One of the things that sets DIRTT apart is the company’s technology division, Ice Edge and the first-of-its-kind software, ICE. The visual software offers configuration and pricing, marrying the client’s design vision with realistic renderings and manufacturing solutions. Design changes can be made in real-time with immediate price adjustments. This allows for faster decision making, less scope creep, and fewer change orders.
“Change orders can be an unexpected nightmare for many clients,” said Lutowicz. “These are unaccounted for costs that occur during the construction process when unforeseen circumstances or clashes between trades arise. We’re happy to report that on this very large project Verto360 experienced only 4 change orders which resulted in a credit to the client of $1,900.”
Flexibility and Workplace Wellness in Siskinds’ New Office Space
Using the DIRTT solution, which included Inspire low-profile glass walls to create an open atmosphere with adequate soundproofing, helped Siskinds meet employees’ needs for both privacy and collaboration. The walls have an acoustical rating of 38 STC while measuring only 2 inches thick to create a feel of open space.
It was the first time Verto360 had used the walls in a project and found them easy to work with. In one meeting room, the walls can be configured from 2 to 6 inches thick to accommodate embedded technology.
“It was a complex build. To be able to do that in a factory, bring it to the job site, put it up, install the TV screens and go from there is a real testament to the power of manufactured construction,” Lutowicz said.
The top floor of the building makes use of 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling glass windows for daylight harvesting and to improve employee moods and productivity through the presence of natural light.
While Siskinds previous office space was conventional construction with drywall and concrete, the new space provides flexibility to meet the needs of an ever-changing, often hybrid, workforce. “We have flexibility in regard to changing offices, making them bigger, changing the configuration. That to me was the important factor,” said MacDonald in a YouTube case study about the project.
To change technology around as office configurations or needs change, Verto360 specified and installed DIRTT zone boxes in the ceiling plenum. This allows plug-and-play connectivity for screens, cameras and other audio visual technology that is embedded or surface-mounted on meeting room walls. The client can also open wall tiles to change or upgrade technology, creating a future-proof workplace that meets the needs of the law firm now and in the future.
Sustainability and Pre-Fab Construction
Workplace wellness and future proofing for a changing workforce are important concepts in construction across the U.S. and Canada today. Sustainability was also an important consideration for Siskinds.
“Using a manufactured construction solution creates a strong sustainability story as well, allowing us to divert 18,700 lbs of drywall from entering a landfill,” Lutowicz pointed out. When drywall decomposes in the oxygen-depleted conditions of a landfill it releases lethal hydrogen sulfide gas into the environment and leaches dangerous sulfates into the ground water supply.
According to the sustainability study created by DIRTT on behalf of Verto360 and Ollie Agency, choosing DIRTT prefabricated solutions also helped avoid 180 pounds of paint-based VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and 30 pounds of drywall mud and tape-based VOCs from entering the atmosphere through off-gassing.
Not only does this have environmental benefits, but it also contributes to workplace wellness. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can contribute to headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, allergies, liver and kidney damage, fatigue, dizziness and more.
In terms of sustainability, the DIRTT walls within London City Centre also included 55% recycled content and 1% bio-based content, while the millwork was made up of 93% recycled content, offering the design look the client wanted along with the sustainability that is so important to the company.
More than 2,000 denim jeans were recycled to create the wall insulation, creating 53% less CO2e than conventional fiberglass insulation, according to the report.
“I will say that I think that our new offices are fantastic and came in on budget in a very challenging environment,” said Fred Rose, Siskinds Partner, at the close of the project. “Going with manufactured construction is a large part of the reason why.”