Tearfund, the leading Christian charity that seeks to alleviate material and spiritual poverty through its world-wide network of over 100,000 churches, has been headquartered in a 1930’s building in Teddington, for over 40 years.
The need to completely overhaul the building Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning (HVAC) was long overdue and had been deferred many times, in order to concentrate on the aid and humanitarian work the team are so passionate about.
The HVAC had continued to support the building way beyond its natural lifespan but in 2015 the decision was taken that something had to be done. However, the Tearfund leadership saw this as an opportunity to do more than just upgrade the infrastructure. They realised this was also the time to bring the organisation into the new millennium, to replace the tired and ageing interior and to perhaps drive some cultural change too.
“We wanted to make Tearfund fit for purpose for the next generation,” says Gordon May, head of IT and leader of the project. Having researched the options, the decision was made to refit the interior of their existing HQ, rather than move their 350 or so employees.
Through various senior meetings the team became fully engaged in the holistic nature of the project and the all-encompassing task of changing cultural behaviours as well as the physical nature of the building interior.
Employing an interior design consultant, ABA Design, they set about reviewing what their people’s requirements were – wanting to deliver a fit for purpose solution but being wary of over-promising to match every individual nuance and nicety.
Gordon and the team happened to visit the newly built and furnished WWF HQ in Woking and came away thinking ‘that is what we’re aspiring to achieve’. When ABA Design suggested Tearfund should consider Kinnarps as a furniture partner, it was a happy coincidence to discover they were responsible for the furnishing of that new WWF building and to find a very like-minded cultural fit in.
“We were impressed with the way Kinnarps approached a project… thinking more about how the furniture would be used and what purpose it served, rather than just a commodity sale. Their sense of corporate responsibility, sustainability and culture were underplayed and yet were clearly something that reflected our own way of thinking.”
In mid-2016 the work began, with teams moving across floors as work progressed, utilising staff and conference rooms as temporary office space. The new interior is both fresh and modern, with a flexible desk ownership ratio (approx. 70% rather than 1-2-1) and far more break-out, soft meeting and ‘Third Space’ areas.
“The most common comment I hear is ‘how big the space feels now’”, says Gordon. The project team know it will take some time for the new way of working to settle in and be fully embraced. “We’re learning and consider the project as an evolving process”, continues Gordon. “The furniture and design has been well received and you can see teams slowly changing the way they work as they use the space. All projects have their challenges but the Kinnarps fitters’ attitude of ‘let me see what I can do’ certainly helped when we had to make unexpected changes to the plan during the fit-out.”
For Tearfund’s Facilities Manager Andrew Gill the key deliverables from a furniture supplier (aside from value for money) are sustainability and durability. As he puts it: “Kinnarps have been like a partner in the project rather than merely a supplier. Their advice on what would fit best in our varied spaces was invaluable and their installation team were superb. I expect the furniture to last and still look good the next time we refurbish, which may not be for a long time!”
Nick Chinnery, Finance Director & Project Chair, reflects that "Kinnarps have helped us in really practical ways to bring to life the idea of making our space more flexible and build on the relational nature of the organisation. They have partnered with us in not spending the earth, either environmentally or financially, and in delivering something that I believe will enhance the way we work, rather than constraining it".