WSP's South Africa Headquarters, Johannesburg

WSP in Africa’s new headquarters offices in Johannesburg are the very embodiment of our company’s culture of collaboration, innovation and putting people first. Every element of the space we occupy at Knightsbridge Office Park in Bryanston is centred around worker wellbeing, from its biophilic design principles to its active workspace floorplans.

A Workplace That Connects People, Performance and Nature

The space perfectly expresses our people-centric strategy for workplace design because, in addition to being an anchor tenant for the office block, we were also professional engineering design services provider to the developer, Emira. This dual role gave us a valuable opportunity to directly showcase WSP’s innovative approach to workplace design and our new base represents the first phase of Emira’s scheme to transform the Knightsbridge site into a prime office complex.

We relocated to Knightsbridge because our former offices in Johannesburg, split over three buildings in two locations, were no longer fit-for-purpose. Relocation brought our team together into a single coherent space designed to inspire people and set them at ease, enabling talent to flourish. We occupy 62,400 sq. ft. over three floors of Building C, which has a beautiful roof top garden, symbolic of the biophilic principles that inform the development’s design concept.

The garden serves to connect people with nature, while also contributing to the building’s insulation and helping to manage storm water: accessible to all building users, it is a place for tenants to mingle and relax.

The floorplans are based on facilitating an active workplace that provides the spaces that best support our people’s needs, whether that means interacting with others, or accessing quiet spaces suitable for reflection. The building is designed to invoke a sense of wellbeing, maximising natural daylight and fresh air, while minimising consumption of scarce resources. Outside, there is a running track; outdoor relaxation spaces; showers, lockers and cycle storage; and a green-roofed café, all serving to enhance wellbeing, support a better work/life balance and protect the environment. It boasts 4-Star Green Star SA Design rating certification thanks to the efforts of our sustainability team, whose aim was to reduce the building’s reliance and on water and impact on energy resources while increasing functional resilience.

Lighting is controlled by occupancy sensors; rain water is harvested for irrigation of green spaces; and the taps have low-flow fittings to reduce water consumption. As well as minimising the building’s impact on the environment, these features will also result in substantial savings on operational and maintenance costs. The building was constructed using timber sourced from sustainable sources and reinforcing was manufactured using over 90% recycled steel. In combination, the sustainable features result in is an estimated greenhouse gas emission of 137.1 kgCO2/m²/year – that’s a 40% saving compared to a standard office building.

WSP played a pivotal role in the design and fit-out of our own new building. The project involved every discipline in our Property business with high level of coordination required to deliver the project successfully and on time.

Not only did this project call on the wide range of engineering disciplines across our business, including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, electronic, plumbing, fire and sustainability, but it was the first fully modelled project in which all the different disciplines took part. This enabled seamless collaboration with the architect, project manager, quantity surveyor and full construction team to achieve a better coordinated outcome.

In the early design phase, we used our 3D assets to design an immersive, gamified, virtual reality rendering of the planned redevelopment for the precinct and a detailed rendering for our new HQ. Once we had completed the detailed rendering, we were able to host 3D coordination sessions from our previous offices. This not only ensured that the design process was thorough, but also enabled us to identify any potential problems early in the design phases, so we could correct them in the 3D environment. This provided a holistic and integrated design that allowed the whole project team to be truly proactive and collaborative in developing solutions. It also led to far more coordinated and streamlined construction phases.