Yearly Archive for 2015
Premier developers, architects, interior designers and real estate agents from the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America gathered at the Hilton Hotel, Barbados on Friday (October 23rd). That evening, in the presence of the Earl of Caithness from the House of Lords in British Parliament, the eagerly awaited results of the Americas Property Awards were announced.
Gillespie & Steel Associates Ltd. were successful in four categories. These were, as follows:
5 Star Best Leisure Architecture Barbados: The Spa
5 Star Best Architecture Multiple Residence Barbados: Settlers Beach
Highly Commended – Architecture Single Residence Barbados: Footprints
Highly Commended – Retail Architecture Barbados: Limegrove Lifestyle Centre
The highest scoring 5-star winners from each of the 48 different categories now go forward to represent the Americas’ regions in the 2015-2016 International Property Awards. As holders of the prestigious title of ‘Best in Region’, they will compete against other regional winners from Africa, Arabia, the UK, Asia Pacific and Europe to find the ultimate World’s Best in each category. The results of the eagerly anticipated ‘World’s Best’ International Property Awards will be revealed at a glittering awards presentation ceremony in London on December 7th 2015.
Stuart Shield, President of the International Property Awards, says, “We are delighted to have received the support of the BTI for our Americas Property Awards’ event in Barbados. I now look forward to the announcement of the final results in December when we will discover how many coveted ‘World’s Best’ titles the Americas can achieve against exceedingly strong competition from across the globe.”
About the International Property Awards
The International Property Awards are open to residential and commercial property professionals from around the globe. Since 1995, they have celebrated the highest levels of achievement by companies operating in all sectors of the property and real estate industry.
The awards are split into regions covering Africa, Asia Pacific, Arabia, Canada, Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, UK and USA. Up to three of the highest-scoring winners from each region are automatically entered into the overall International Awards, which ultimately determine the world’s finest property companies.
An International Property Award is a world-renowned mark of excellence. Judging is carried out through a meticulous process involving a panel of over 70 experts covering every aspect of the property business. Main sponsors and supporters include Grohe, RAK Ceramics, Kohler, Elite Stone, Polisan, Dap Yapi, the Barbados Tourism Institute (BTI) and Berger Paints.
Year to year, we see the landscape of offices changing in overseas markets. Some changes are for the better, benefitting employees and organisations as a whole. However, some simply don’t work in the long run, and so we have seen the workplace evolve over time. Where does the Barbadian corporate office fit in with design advances overseas?
As we know, change in Barbados can be gradual, and the standard office is a conservative one, illustrating classic indicators of status and traditional ways of working. The office environment is, at times, not taken into consideration outside of accommodating staff numbers and providing a necessary workspace. What some fail to realise and we discussed in the previous post in this series, is that the workplace environment has an impact on employee engagement and productivity. Considering that the corporate population spends most of the day in this environment, it should support the people and the work being done in an efficient manner.
In a standard Barbadian office, executives and managers are usually located in offices on the perimeter of the floor plate, with access to natural light and views, which is generally seen as an indicator of status, something for staff to aspire to. The support staff are likely located outside of these offices in assigned workstations, away from the perimeter, natural light and views. Depending on the number of support staff, there can be an expanse of workstations, some with high panels to offer privacy – cutting employees off from one another. Meeting rooms are often the only space to facilitate collaboration. This model does not align with trends that we see in overseas markets.
The ‘New Yorker’s’ take on the traditional office layout (John O’brien, The New Yorker)
Leaders of organisations are giving priority to the work environment, in an effort to recruit and retain productive, engaged staff, as well as to reinforce their brand identities. Many organisations now allocate the best spaces to the most people, so that the majority of workers have access to natural light and views. In juxtaposition to this is a general reduction in square footage for each employee based on factors such as high rental rates, and the ability for some employees to be untethered to a desk, either working from home or elsewhere in the office. Desks have become smaller, but this has also led to an increase of collaboration spaces, either lounge areas or meeting rooms. Some staff are given freedom to choose their workspace. Wellness has become a focus. Amenity areas for food and tea or coffee have also been given more significance. With the emphasis on open and collaborative spaces, there has of recent, been a renewed emphasis on private spaces, combined with new protocols on use of these spaces. These trends drive more than interior design, also influencing architecture, product design and real estate, but do they work?
Various types of work areas offer employees a choice of where to work at any given time (What Now Offices New York by Fogarty Finger, from officesnapshots.com)
For some types of businesses they do. Take for example, technology ‘start-ups’ with their open layouts, reduced privacy, unassigned works spaces and popular amenities. These elements work since employees need to collaborate frequently, often work outside of traditional hours and do not need to be in an office setting to complete tasks. They also reinforce company culture. The Gillespie & Steel offices too are completely open, to facilitate collaboration, the only enclosed space is the conference room.
Smaller, height adjustable desks offer the ability to change posture throughout the day (Danone Utretcht Innovation Centre Netherlands by Cepezed photos by Stijn Poelstra, from officesnapshots.com)
Open collaboration space (Cision Chicago by Eastlake Studio, from office snapshots.com)
Café space takes gives the traditional tea point/lunchroom more emphasis and allows employees another area to work, collaborate and socialise (Media 24 Offices Cape Town by Inhouse, from officesnapshots.com)
Other industries have replicated some of these design elements with less success. We cannot apply a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ approach here. We do, however, have the benefit of the overseas markets’ hindsight, and the ability to apply successful strategies to corporate Barbados. The type of business, company culture and work being engaged in must inform the design of the spaces and ultimately the space must support these factors. What factors benefit the Barbadian corporate office?
The Impact of the Office Environment
Much of the work we do at G&S Interiors involves the design and development of corporate Barbadian environments. Often the main objective is to accommodate a defined number of people, but we still need to ensure the office environment is inspiring, pleasant and efficient for those working there. We see many changes taking place in the overseas market. These tend to infiltrate our market, in the form of new design ideas and more tangibly in the form of products made to facilitate these design ideas. In the upcoming series of blogs we will investigate some elements of office design and how they translate in the Barbadian market, starting with the office environment itself.
Space with abundant natural light (Index Ventures San Francisco Office Expansion by Garcia Tamjidi Architrecture Design, From officesnapshots.com)
The Barbadian Context
The office environment has an impact on the productivity and engagement of employees. This may seem like an obvious statement, but we do not often see this in all corporate offices in Barbados. Physical factors such as the amount of light, both natural and artificial, the indoor air quality and ergonomics of products have a direct effect on an employee’s physical well being, and most people acknowledge that these form the foundation of good office design. The design of a workplace can however, also include factors which influence the psychological and emotional well being of employees, and this is what we find is not so readily accepted.
Locally, the importance of a ‘healthy’ workplace is generally understood, and the implementation of the Safety and Health At Work (SHAW) Act is a positive step forward. A sick employee will not have the same level of productivity as one who is in good health. Absences and lowered work output can be directly attributed to their illness, but what about the physically well employee who feels unmotivated and disengaged? The cause of their work absences and lowered output may not usually be directly perceived. Absenteeism and lack of employee engagement is a constant struggle for Barbadian companies. There are many factors that influence this, but research has found that the design of the workplace environment contributes to these sentiments.
Focus, Collaboration, Socialising and Learning
In the past few years research, such as Gensler’s Workplace Surveys from 2008 and 2013, has amassed data to show that the types of work spaces must apply to the type of work being done there. Spaces which support the type of work tasks, as well as ways in which employees perform these tasks, create office spaces where people want to be present.
Further research undertaken in the US by Gensler and others, has shown that there are four work modes - Focus, Collaboration, Socialising and Learning. A typical workday is made up mostly of tasks that require Focus and Collaboration, with Socialising and Learning also taking place, but to a lesser extent. These work modes can be readily identified in Barbadian offices as well. An individual may be working as a part of a project team, and so need to collaborate, but often needs to go away from meetings and concentrate on their area of the project. The collaboration typically takes place in a meeting room, and the focus work at the individual’s assigned work area, be it an office or workstation.
A collaborative space next to a private space for focused work. (Philip's North American Lighting Headquarters by Gensler, From officesnapshots.com)
Studies have found that companies whose office environments offer a varied balance of spaces that support Collaboration as well as Focus have employees who are more engaged and productive. This is enhanced when workers can choose the spaces they want to work in throughout the day, something not regularly seen on island. Further to offering different spaces to work in, research has also found a benefit in offering products which support different postures. This has seen the introduction of height adjustable desks, which allow the occupant to sit or stand, as well as different types of seating, for example lounge chairs, stools, ottomans etc. These choices encourage people to move about during the day rather than being sedentary.
Different types of spaces to support different work modes (The Factory San Francisco by ASD Photography by Mariko Reed, From officesnapshots.com)
The Bottom Line
The type of office and corporate culture can also impact the work environment. Design elements can be used to support the organisational culture. While many Barbadian companies tend to be conservative and follow a historic design model, there is also an expanding presence of multinational corporations, amongst local companies. Many of these organisations have design guidelines to emphasise brand identity, while homogenising their physical presence globally and we as designers are often charged with helping more traditional clients transition to these new types of spaces.
The valuable take away is that organisational leaders have the ability to shape the office environment for their staff and themselves, ultimately investing in their employees. It is worth it if this can underscore the corporate culture, act as a recruitment tool for new employees, help to retain those already there, and boost productivity.The office environment should be viewed as a desirable place to be which evokes positive feelings and not just be seen as a place to work.
Barbados is blessed with a geological structure that is a near perfect water filter, providing subterranean streams of clean clear water that has been tapped and distributed across the island to meet our potable water requirements with little need for treatment since the early 1900’s. The relatively recent past history of development in the island (20+ years) has put this natural water supply under stress primarily through the increase in the shear number of users together with the related potential ground water contamination through physical development (read waste water wells), and the use of synthetic fertilizers in agriculture. Potential contamination aside Barbados is currently considered a water scarce country, as it does not meet the UN Commission on Water’s annual water supply benchmark of 1,000 cuM per person, or in fact the ‘absolute scarcity’ threshold of 500 cuM per person. The available annual water supply for Barbados is currently marginally over 300 cuM per person. This is just slightly ahead of the desert nations of the Middle East. (If only we had the oil.)
The deterioration of the water resources in quantity and quality has not gone unnoticed. The government of Barbados through its various Ministries has implemented several measures to combat the decline. These include legislation requiring homeowners and business to provide secondary water storage tanks to collect rain water, the installation of tertiary level sewage treatment plants required as a condition of approval from the Environmental Protection Department, the implementation of water supply metering together with a rate structure to curb consumer use, the establishment of a desalination plant to increase water sources, the ongoing mains replacement program to reduce water losses, and recent exploration for previously untapped subterranean water reservoirs.
These are all positive steps, however, the implementation of the secondary water storage tank regulations and the waste water treatment plant requirements need to be revisited in order to maximize the benefits with respect to water availability and economy. Current regulations require that rain water collected from roofs only be used for secondary uses such as irrigation and tertiary treated water from treatment plants be put into the ground. Our Caribbean neighbors are not as lucky as Barbados in that much of their water is derived from surface water runoff and localized rainwater collection. In Barbados we have been spoiled with an apparent abundant supply of good potable water. I spent my early life on a large oil camp in Trinidad where we had several large lakes primarily for use in the cooling towers in the adjacent oil refinery but also piped to all the residential properties, club house and sporting facilities and schools. I grew up knowing that only water from taps within a building was drinkable and you ‘DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER IN THE YARD’. The ‘inside’ potable water was supplied to the homes and other facilities from a water purification plant that drew source water from one of the lakes. The dual water distribution system worked well and I expect was efficient and economical. The lake water was largely drawn from a neighboring river (of questionable quality) down stream of many other population areas and also collected rainwater runoff from all the buildings, roads, plus general storm water runoff. The lakes provided a wonderful play ground where we would swim, fish, and hunt alligators. Many years later as a young man recently qualified I visited my boy hood home and all my old haunts. It was only then that I realized that the concrete structures that we would play on and jump off of into the lakes were septic tanks that discharges directly to the lakes.
My point is that secondary water can be utilized in Barbados to greater ends than currently permitted. The current regulations in a nutshell prohibit any use of treated effluent where it may come in contact with an individual. ie. Only drip irrigation or discharged down a well. This is not an economical equation when the cost of the treatment plant is significant. Secondary use water must be used in dual plumbing systems providing general irrigation, external water requirements, and toilet and urinal flushing. Only then will we be in a position to justify the expense of tertiary level waste water treatment and rainwater storage tanks.
On Saturday May 9, 2015, Gillespie and Steel was proud to sponsor a team at the “From Marrakesh with Love” 2015 Scotiabank Rotary West Polo Challenge at the Apes Hill Polo Club, St. James, Barbados.
Our team was headed by the talented Danny Atwell with an impressive 3 goal handicap. He was joined by the young, up and coming player Josh Archer (-2 goal), as well as Jason Oselmo (-1 goal). We were also pleased to have the President of the Barbados Polo Association, Wayne Archer (2 goal) on our side.
Ours was the first match of the evening and we played against the Scotiabank team comprising Pablo Crespin (3 goal), Richard Gooding (2 goal), Roddy Davis (0 goal) and the effervescent Linda Williams (-2 goal).
Our team played a competitive match but in the end were on the losing side by a 5 – 2 margin.
This was also a special night in another way as the Guinness Book of Records was on hand to present Sir Charles Williams with a certificate for being the oldest active polo player, playing a winning match at the age of 82 years and 166 days. The record was previously held by Mr. Hammie Smith of South Africa who played in September 2004 at the age of 75 years and 3 days. We congratulate Sir Charles and are confident that his record will stand for years to come!
In the interim, much fun was had by all!
(Professional photos compliments Andre Williams)
Footprints Villa is a major refurbishment of two apartments on the West Coast.
Previously a Spanish styled building, it has been completely transformed into a contemporary, luxury beach villa. It has the most stunning elevated views through tall palm trees, of the beach and the vibrant colours of the sea.
The interior design was carried out by Kelly Hoppen from the UK which has made this a truly unique residence. The refurbished property has 5 bedrooms including a 1,300 sq ft master suite, media room and gym.
A design concept can only be as good as how the person building/manufacturing the item interprets it. Having good relationships with trusted suppliers helps tremendously as the progression from hand sketch to finished product on this "one-off" and bespoke beach shower.
The original concept sketch was developed with a few key dimensions and notes while the specialist metalworker, Saltech Barbados solved how to integrate the shower column into the framework.
As designers, we always try to keep abreast of the latest projects and products worldwide in an effort to remain educated and inspired. Thanks to today’s technology, we have this information at our fingertips and while scrolling through social media, design websites and the like, we come across some great products.
At times, practicing commercial/contract interior design in a more traditional society can be limiting and although constraints often push our creativity, sometimes we just want to specify some of the cool things that we see!
Below is a compilation of our dream products – items we would love to use, but either haven’t as yet, or have used very sparingly.
Ann Sacks – Anything! Unparalleled aesthetic perfection.
Walker Textures – Custom acid etched glass: How creative can you get?
Harmonic Environments – Water features: Wish we could put one in every project!
Jeremy Cole – White Flax Light Fixture: This stunning pendant is created from handmade matt white bone china and comes in three sizes ranging from approximately 36” -75". It would be a perfect addition to a hotel reception or foyer of a high end residence.
Vibia – Ameba Pendant: The Ameba’s unique design, based on the five modules available, allows it to transform into innumerable configurations, which can enhance any space from a small dining room to a large conference room.
antoniolupi – Tuba Sink: Tuba is a free standing sink made of the solid surface material Cristalplant, designed by Carlo Colombo for the Italian company Antoniolupi. Its contemporary look can spice up a powder room or restaurant washroom.
Vitra – Panton Chair: First produced in 1967, the Panton chair still holds it’s own in any modern setting. Panton chairs would be a fun addition to an office café space or casual meeting room.
Bocci – 14 Pendant/Chandelier: Available as a single pendant or in any configuration you can design, the 14 fixture infuses spaces with an ethereal quality. This would be beautiful clustered above a freestanding tub, (there is a wet rated option), in an open double height space, or even as singular pendants above a reception desk.
Walker Zanger – Sterling Row Collection: Inspired by fabrics and fine tailoring, this tile collection combines classic shapes in porcelain and marble. The high contrast makes the patterns graphic and funky. What a way to make a statement in a powder room or on a tiled accent wall!
As a foreign investor should I utilize consultant services from my home country or should I appoint a team of local consultants in Barbados? What would be the pros and cons?
This is a common query raised by purchasers and developers that are unfamiliar with the construction industry in Barbados. Despite being a relatively small island nation, Barbados is blessed with a mature and sophisticated construction sector, with consultants capable of undertaking the entire spectrum of construction projects.
I have worked with both overseas and local consultants on a number of large commercial, hospitality and residential projects and whilst overseas consultants may possess experience and knowledge that is valuable to the development of specialist projects, i.e. Hospitals, Data Centres, Prisons, or have established relationships with developers, the involvement of a local consultant, as the lead consultant, is paramount.
Local consultants are experienced in the application of local codes and regulations, which differ significantly from US or UK building codes, regulations, design guides or building notes, and are able to ensure that such codes and regulations are met effectively and economically.
It is often overlooked that developing in a tropical environment presents some unique environmental challenges and considerations. Again, the involvement of a local consultant, experienced in designing buildings for a tropical climate, will ensure that these factors are considered and addressed during the design phase. An experienced local consultant will ensure that your project takes advantage of trade wind breezes, the changing daily sun position whilst also ensuring that the seismic and hurricane requirements are fully addressed and providing renewable energy and energy efficient solutions.
In addition, local consultants can add value to the development or project with an unrivalled experience of local construction methods, including the opportunities and limitations, ‘best practices’ in design and construction and even cultural diversity. All of which will effect the success of a development, the final product and ultimately the end user. Although, overseas consultants may have specialist experience in a particular sector of the construction industry or form of building, one should consider that the building is being developed in Barbados, and the value that a local consultant, in the role of lead consultant, can add to ensure that the regulations, codes and idiosyncrasies of building in Barbados are addressed and the opportunities are maximised to achieve a successful project.
The skills and experience required to develop a wide range of buildings and structures already exist, here in Barbados.
Whenever it is proposed that an old building be saved from demolition and instead be preserved and restored for future generations to appreciate, the standard cry that goes up in Barbados is “Why! It’s just an old building that has outlived its useful life.” And then comes the usual response of “Barbados is a tourist destination and preserving our history provides an added reason for tourist to make Barbados their destination of choice. But let’s face it, most tourists come to Barbados for sea, sun and sand, few come here for our history and unless an historic site appeals to a specific niche market to maintain it, it is unlikely to succeed.
Also, unlike Europeans and North Americans, most Barbadians are ignorant of their history, which is understandable since for the first 350 years of settlement, 95% of our population was taught that their history was heathen, horrible and irrelevant while the other 5% were taught that their motherland was England. As a result, our history is not widely known or appreciated and much of our built heritage is either rotting through neglect or being actively torn down as a result.
Fortunately, there is a now ever growing core of Barbadians who are interested in things Barbadian and organizations such as the Barbados Museum & Historical Society and the Barbados National Trust have done tremendous work over the years to preserve our heritage. Added to this now, our schools, the University of the West Indies and the Barbados Community College are increasingly focusing more on Barbadian history and culture and this has resulted in a wider cross section of Barbadians appreciating that their Barbadian identity as something to be proud of.
I say we restore Barbados’ built heritage for us Barbadians first, as a representation of our Barbadian identity and our appreciation of our culture, history and the forces that have shaped us. After all these structures were in most cases designed by Barbadians and built by Barbadians, for Barbadians.
So What To Restore:
Clearly, every old building cannot be kept but let us also acknowledge that not every building makes it to 100 years old, while not many make it up to 200 years old and very few make it to 300 years old. So the older a building is makes it more important to preserve.
St. Nicholas Abbey
The specific history of a building can also make it important. The Barbados Government and the Barbados National Trust recently combined to restored Bush Hill House, the place where George Washington stayed whilst in Barbados in 1771. Also saved twenty years earlier was Tyrol Cot, the home of Sir Grantley and Lady Adams, along with many of their possessions and memorabilia.
George Washington House
But what about some others:
1. Culloden Farm (c1790):
The official residence of the first Prime Minister of Barbados. Wouldn’t it make a fabulous museum to the Barbados’ quest for independence, the people and events leading up to Independence and our first elected Government. All Barbadians know about Errol Barrow but how many remember Cameron Tudor?
2. The Eyrie:
The home of Sir Conrad Reeves, Barbados’ first black Attorney General and first black man to be knighted in Barbados. This beautiful building is now falling to pieces.
We all know the iconic Barbadian decorated Chattel House. But how many of us have seen one recently. Many of the base structures remain but the vast majority of the “gingerbread” work and entrance porticos have now gone. Thank god for the Barbados National Trust and the authentic copies of various chattel houses they had built on the grounds of Tyrol Cot.
There is also the traditional Barbadian Town House, now most commonly seen along Hastings Main Road. Fortunately, some of these still remain. But also going fast now is the 1920’s/1930’s typical coral stone, hipped roof bungalow, with patio to the front not yet considered an important style but many were very attractive.
How to Restore:
Research of a building is essential prior to starting any restoration works. Old photos, written descriptions and local knowledge can be invaluable. The 1804 drawing of Bush Hill House, by Charles Shipley, provided the original design of the front entrance portico, the layout of the kitchen and the location of the stairway, all of which had unfortunately been removed.
Plan of George Washington House
Determine what aspects of the building are of particular importance. The Barbados National Trust can be particularly helpful here. In The Masonic Lodge ground floor, the central timber columns, the main beam and the perimeter floor supports to the first floor were considered very important.
Masonic Lodge during renovation
When replacing an element lost over time with no record, copy authentic detailing of similar items from the same period. At Arlington House, no record of the Georgian / Victorian balcony existed, so a balcony on a nearby derelict building was copied. That building has now gone but its balcony design lives on.
Use authentic salvaged period items wherever possible. In the kitchen of Bush Hill House we reused salvaged flagstones, bricks, sink and the timber beam to the fire hearth. The ovens and hearth were rebuilt to the original layout.
Bush Hill House
Match colours of paint from samples taken from the building. Don’t just paint an historic building your favourite colours. At the Pavilion brick red and cream were shown to be the original Garrison building colours not the burgundy and white that the other Garrison buildings are now painted.
Do Not Redesign
Do not redesign the building unless required to do so for a specific purpose. At The Masonic Lodge a new stairway and lift were essential and the main entrance to the building needed to be orientated towards the Barbados Central Bank side of the building, it originally faced the area that is now the car park of the St. Michael’s Cathedral.
The Masonic Lodge
But most important, be true to the building’s history, style and age whenever possible but remember that a building generally is not a static object. It may have had many owners over its life span who may have altered it to suit their time and lifestyle. So be careful when removing what you consider to be irrelevant as opinions may change with the next generation.