ABRSM Hits The Right Note at Salters’ Hall
Creating a functional and inspiring space
The Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams. Its mission is to inspire achievement in music.
In 2015 ABRSM realised that, after 25 years, it had outgrown its home at 24 Portland Place. The existing heritage building was a combination of offices, meeting rooms, public exam areas, as well as home to 16 keyboards and a grand piano. Spread over six floors, with a tiny lift, there was no collaborative space and many people worked in isolated office cubicles.
JAC initially advised ABRSM on the option of making better use of its current space. However, it was decided that a relocation was the right decision. JAC Project Management was appointed following a recommendation from another not-for-profit organisation. As with all projects, there needed to be zero downtime and a seamless transition on completion.
‘JAC rapidly gained an understanding of the culture of the organisation and its aspirations.’
Thorough workplace analysis and internal communication support
Following a briefing, JAC Design conducted workplace needs analysis as well as research with department leads. There was an internal perception that more meeting rooms were necessary, however, research found that spaces to meet away from desks were more important. Careful analysis was conducted into how many meeting rooms, breakout and project spaces were needed and recommendations made. This included a culture-changing move away from cellular offices to open plan.
JAC played a huge role in supporting the organisation in this radical move. Research by the Harvard Business Review found productivity increases when people have more choice in their work environment. However, ABRSM employees were naturally nervous about the impending change and adopting agile ways of working across different settings.
To support the relocation committee and build the business case internally, JAC presented at two major points. It was vital to ensure everyone felt reassured about changes at every stage. The team shared knowledge and expertise about ‘what right looks like’, based on experience of working on hundreds of complex projects. First presenting on the technical, mechanical, visual and furniture, JAC later revisited at the midpoint to talk through plans, interior design and the construction schedule.
New home at the heart of a London heritage site
The new building had to enhance the employee experience by combining the culture, technology and physical space to increase engagement. The relocation to Salters’ Hall was initiated, comprising 23,000 sq ft in a presitigous listed building in EC2.
Salters’ Hall was built between 1972-1976 by celebrated architect, Sir Basil Spence. Close to The Barbican, the building was to be refurbished, with a dramatic new entrance and redesigned to incorporate views through the building, out the original roman London city wall. The refurbishment was a complex undertaking, with planning issues related to the heritage site; it’s also a quirky building, with some ceilings as high as 3.6 metres.
This was a unique and rewarding project for the JAC Project Management and Design team. The fit-out was completed to a high standard and achieved a SKA rating for sustainability criteria.
‘The designs perfectly complemented the architecture of the building, enabling ABRSM to secure listed building planning consent from the City of London Corporation.’
From strangers to colleagues
In 2016 ABRSM moved into five floors of open plan offices with breakout areas, meeting room suites, staff café, kitchen, seminar rooms, music rooms and a library. In collaboration with an acoustic consultant, a sound-proof booth was incorporated into the exam suite, preventing sound from travelling between pre-exam practice areas and examination rooms.
It was ‘business as usual’, with additional benefits; employees reported that they quickly met people who’d worked in the company for years that they’d never seen before!
‘ABRSM now has stunning new accomodation which has truly exceeded the expection of staff and visitors. The innovative use of space and the attention to the brief carefully developed from conversations with staff has had a very beneficial impact on the organisation, improving staff motivation and collaboration. We asked JAC for the wow factor from day one and they delivered.’
Excellence in project management
This was a complex relocation project, with multiple stakeholders and building limitations. It was also an utterly rewarding undertaking, with great client feedback along the way, illustrating JAC’s commitment to delivering an exceptional project experience:
‘Throughout the design and fit-out process JAC provided ABRSM with an excellent project management service. They led a very efficient procurement process resulting in the appointment of a team of highly skilled and professional contractors.’
*All client quotes from Sue Cambridge, Executive Director of Finance & Corporate Services, ABRSM