Medibank Plaza
PROJECTS  /  Medibank Plaza

The Medibank fitout at 720 Bourke Street includes a range of architectural and interiors elements that push it to the leading edge of workspace planning.

Medibank is in the business of promoting better health for everyone. This includes the people who come to work every day at Medibank Place, its new head office in Melbourne’s Docklands.

From activity-based working to health-based working

The new workplace was part of a major cultural change program for Australia’s largest health insurer Medibank to live its purpose to the core and create better health outcomes for its members, employees and the community.

That aspiration drove Medibank to create one of the healthiest workplaces in the world. One that goes beyond conventional Activity Based Working (ABW) to create Health Based Working (HBW) – an approach that places the mental and physical health of people at its heart.

Medibank employees have real freedom to choose how and where they work. With laptops and mobile phones in hand, Medibank’s people can now select from more than 26 types of work settings, ranging from indoor quiet spaces and collaborative hubs to wifi-enabled balconies and places to stand and work. Circadian lighting in certain areas of the workspace mimics natural daylight patterns supporting people’s biorhythms.

Employees who want a more vigorous workout during the day can also make use of a multipurpose sports court at ground level. Adjacent to the sports court, an edible garden sits near a demonstration kitchen that Medibank uses to promote healthy eating to both staff, not-for-profit organisations and the wider community.

The building itself has been described as being ‘hard-wired for health’. A ramp from the main entrance on Bourke Street spirals upwards from street level, allowing Medibank employees easy access to bike storage on their way in to work. This makes both a symbolic and practical commitment to encouraging employee health and wellbeing.

A living, breathing building transforms its surrounds
Both the building and the workplace incorporate an enormous number of plants. There are 2,300 inside the building and 520 in modular planter boxes on the façade, as well as two 25-metre high street-facing green walls.

Within the workplace this helps relieve stress, improve internal air quality and transforms views from grey to green. With around 10 percent of the building’s exterior covered by native Australian plants, it’s a ‘living, breathing building’ that also provides a welcome relief within its heavily concreted urban surrounds.

The effect of the planting combined with the curves of the building itself is to convey a softer, more human character. The facade is tactile and unpredictable – a stark contrast to the solid and impenetrable nature of many city towers.

More than just a building, Medibank Place is a new gateway to Melbourne’s Docklands precinct. It succeeds in ‘giving something back’ to its surrounding community by creating a welcoming public precinct at ground level with a timber amphitheatre, cafes, shops and a public park.

Diverse design thinking creates character and meaning

Achieving the kind of innovation Medibank wanted for its new workplace meant driving a highly collaborative design process. Architects and landscape architects contributed to the workplace interiors, interior designers and architects to the park and all three disciplines were involved in the base building design.

HASSELL also invited three very different design firms – Chris Connell Design, Kerry Phelan Design Office and Russell and George – to collaborate on the design for the plaza level which sits in the middle of the tower. This succeeded in creating layers of character and meaning to inspire people to connect in new ways with their workplace.

Delivering value for Medibank

Medibank is confident its new workplace will deliver cultural and financial value through improved productivity and efficiency and will help inspire customer focused innovation by creating breathing space for ideas to grow.

Early signs show that the building is already delivering. Four months after moving in, 79% of employees reported they were working more collaboratively and 70% said they are healthier working at Medibank Place.

What’s more, 66% of employees said they were more productive at Medibank Place and the call centre saw a 5% reduction in absenteeism.

As Kylie Bishop, Medibank’s Executive General Manager, People and Culture, puts it, the building, workplace and surrounding public space “epitomises our purpose and value and all that we stand for.”

One of the key elements as part of this strategy was the Plaza level.

On this level, four collaborating design teams developed separate spaces that link together to form the whole. Each of the spaces provides a different type of space, a different usage type and ultimately, a distinct visual and workspace experience. 

The Kerry Phelan Design Office (KPDO) clubhouse was designed to provide a lounge environment with multiple meeting spaces and work settings.
The lighting design to this space is focused around the development of a feature suspended light form to provide functional ambient lighting to the various spaces that visually linked with non illuminated feature ceiling elements to create a visual layer/pattern above the meeting spaces below.
In addition to this, localised pendant lights were used to define separate spaces in the open area while articulated arm lights allow adjustable lighting to the one person settings.
Medibank’s new workplace ‘Thrive’ supports 2,200 employees including a Medibank Retail Shop and Travel Doctor Clinic.
The building is ‘hardwired for health’ to support Medibank’s core purpose of ‘For Better Health’. The design encourages employees to move through the building and be healthier through the creation of an activity based workplace, exposure to natural daylight, the unique green facade system, extensive park level landscaping, edible garden, green terraces and internal planting.
The project achieved completion mid 2014 and is targeting Green Star Office Interiors certification.
This building is the result of a report that concludes that a majority of Australian employees consider their workplace is a health hazard to their physical and mental wellbeing. And given that we spend such a considerable portion of our life at work it is an alarming discovery.

Medibank Private’s brief on this build was 2 fold. Not only to create a sustainable build, targeting a 6 star Green Star and 5 star NABERS rating, but to create a space that would positively impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of its staff. And why not? Medibank is of course one of the largest health care funds in Australia after all, and good health is in the company’s best interest.

And with luscious vertical gardens on the building’s façade, ABW principles in its interior design and even a vegetable garden and demonstration kitchen onsite, the outcome is an inspirational space which would make leaving work to go home very difficult indeed.

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