Streets ahead

The new head office for the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) brings together 1800 staff, in a building broken up into streets' and neighbourhoods'. It is also a government role model in energy efficiency

view of this informal office meeting area where architecture, ceiling, interior design, office, gray
view of this informal office meeting area where colours are used for specific effect, office furniture and tables are featured

Gathering together a vast number of staff from separate addresses into one, very large head office requires careful consideration. Not only are the build logistics a challenge on such an upscale project but there is the human factor to consider how to give the space a sense of humanity.

These considerations and environmental sustainability were three key factors addressed when HBO+EMTB created the DIMA head offices in Canberra, owned by Challenger Financial Services. HBO+EMTB was responsible for the planning and design of the base building and integrated fit-out.

The director of HBO+EMTB's Canberra office, Kirsten Rodgers, outlines aspects of the project.

"DIMA's head office is one of the largest government projects undertaken in recent years, consolidating 1,800 staff into one location," she says. "The building's 34,100m² of floor space incorporates two separate wings, each six levels plus basement parking, connected by a central link."

The floor plates break down as 2,080m² of floor space on the northern wing and 2250m² of floor area on the southern building.

To address the need for a human scale when faced with such large floor plates, HBO+EMTB created functional environments consisting of a town square', or central atrium, with neighbourhoods' for the various departments located in each wing. The building was naturally designed from the inside out to address this concept.

view of the new head office Of DIMA apartment, architecture, building, commercial building, condominium, corporate headquarters, daytime, facade, headquarters, line, metropolis, metropolitan area, mixed use, residential area, sky, skyscraper, tower block, urban area, window, white
view of the new head office Of DIMA built over stages, featuring glazed aluminium joiney and apollic cladding. and ladscaped concrete courtyard

There are even colour-coded streets' running across the upper five levels of the head office's linking element. They provide speedy orientation in the vast building and also bring a feeling of localisation, even intimacy to the disparate areas.

The double height atrium, or town square, features a front wall of glazing, giving it a strong visual connection with the exterior piazza in front of it. The overall effect is a welcoming one, making light of the overall scale.

The entire building sits on columns, linked by glass, giving the structure a sense of floating and again softening its build forms. This all means that the building encourages approachability a cafe on the ground floor of the north wing, for example, is open to the public as well as staff to wander into.

Elsewhere in the atrium and throughout the head office, there are other shared facilities such as meeting, conferencing and breakout spaces.

The building is as forward-looking in its environmental emphasis as it is in the accommodationof its staff. To this end, government reports have cited it as a flagship for Energy Sustainable Development. Several individual architectural approaches were taken.

"Building on a south-to-north orientation reduced exposure to the sun's rays," says Rodgers. "The facades, broken down into window grids, use high-efficiency, solar-treated lowE glazing."

view of the desk layout and office furniture desk, furniture, office, product design, gray, black
view of the desk layout and office furniture chosen for optimum versatility

Other elements addressed include energy efficient lighting equipment, representing huge savings when specified on this scale, and environmentally in-tune plant and air handling equipment.

With site constraints ranging from existing tenanted buildings through to heritage listed trees, the upscale construction was undertaken in three stages, with the architectural firm and constructors, Bovis Land Lease, working in close collaboration.

As well as overcoming logistical problems, the staggered stages of construction allowed the influx of staff to happen in stages, helping them to come to grips with the head office's scale bit by bit. This included many staff visiting the site before it was completed and before their own relocation there.

"Even considering the building's size and capacity, the individuals at its heart were always our prime consideration," says Rodgers.

Credit list

Architect and interior designer
HBO+EMTB Architects
Project manager and main contractor
Bovis Lend Lease
Electrical, data, security and communications
Hydraulic services
Cardno Young Consulting Engineers
Eric Taylor Acoustics
Earth Tech
Access consultant
Alpolic from
Luxaflex Window Fashions
Leader Joinery
Euromarble, Mirabilis Imports; Pilkington, Boral Industries; applied graphic film images from Photobition (Getty Images)
Reception furniture
Ugi coffee table from Cite; Erik Jorgensen, Corona chair from Designcraft; Mac lounge from INO; Henderson ottoman from Cite
Kitchen equipment
Structural engineer
Civil engineer
Hughes Trueman
Mechanical engineer
Geotechnical engineer
Quantity surveyors
Rider Hunt Terotech Sydney (building); Wilde & Woolard Consultants (fit-out)
Multisystem Communications
Zincalume profile sheeting from BlueScope Steel
PDA Marble & Granite
Feltex, Whitecliff Imports, Quarella, PRF Australia
Knoll from DeDeCE
Breakout furniture
Tom Vac chair from Space; Walter Knoll – Vostra from Designcraft; Tavolino table with Starphire glass from Designcraft
Lift services
Kone Elevators

Story by: Trendsideas

21 Apr, 2006