ICONS: 22 Bishopsgate, London
Why building the tallest, smartest tower in the City of London isn't just about mega engineering – it's about culture
An iconic construction project
The scale of 22 Bishopsgate is immense. At 278 metres, it's the tallest tower in the City and it dominates the skyline from every direction. The Times also called it the City's 'smartest building', which gives you an idea of the technology that we're installing. It has the power to fascinate, like an aircraft carrier or a bridge over the sea.
The difference with a major city tower is the workspace. At 22 Bishopsgate, we're working in a space not much bigger than a football pitch, surrounded by global financial institutions at a busy traffic junction in the heart of one of the world's greatest cities. 17,000 tonnes of steel has gone into this project – twice as much as the Eiffel tower – and at the top, where you can still see the steel structure, we are operating within centimetres of London airspace controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority. Moving a crane any higher would mean shutting down airspace at a cost of millions of pounds per day.
There's no denying that the statistics, technology and scale are impressive, but for me, this project is all about the 1000 and more people coming through the gate every day to build it.
Relentless precision and focus
22 Bishopsgate contains millions of components from around the world, each timed to arrive at precisely the right time. Each one has to be installed correctly, in sequence and – above all – safely, and in that statement, you encapsulate something of the task.
We have some of the world's best construction teams working here – people with the passion and precision to maintain the intense focus necessary to keep everything on track in the face of the myriad challenges a project of this scale throws out every day.
For example, hundreds of metres in the sky, our façade teams have safely fixed over ten thousand façade panels (so far), and every single one has been installed correctly, first time, including the 300,000 bolts used to fix them.
Creating the right culture
Getting the culture right is immensely important in a project like 22 Bishopsgate – it is perhaps the single most important factor for success. To illustrate, we recently had some guests onsite, and we heard afterwards that they were very impressed with was one particular detail. Our front-of-house Security Supervisor Lenny Blasse – known to everyone onsite for his amazing smile – was escorting them to the site offices, and as they went he stopped, picked up a piece of litter, and put it in his pocket. He didn't mention it to them, but they mentioned it to us, and it spoke volumes about the culture onsite.
Lenny is the first person you meet at 22 Bishopsgate, and in a lot of ways he defines the culture we work to create on the project. The man is bottled sunshine. He isn't just a cheerful presence; he sets the tone for treating people well, for the zero tolerance of litter and for the way people work. Press releases on a massive project like this generally talk about big numbers and new technology, but I'd guess that in years to come, when they think about this project, the people who worked here will remember Lenny.
Getting the little things right
Lenny's example demonstrates our philosophy that paying attention to the details is key to getting the bigger picture right. At Multiplex, this starts for everyone on day one of their induction. Everyone knows that you speak and are spoken to with respect on this site. They know that people say what they will do, and they do it.
Our supply chain partners have come along with us on this journey – they are just as proud to show their clients around as we are, and we're happy to let them do that.
Better workspaces for everyone, including construction workers
22 Bishopsgate is the first UK project to target the Well Building Standard from its inception, but we are not just building better workspaces for the eventual occupants – we are also providing them for our site teams as we build. Visitors to our offices here often comment that they are much more like the offices of a design firm than what you might expect on a construction site.
We take the view that a happy team is a productive team and we focus on providing the best possible workspaces for our people. This means plants and light and space and better shared facilities. At 22 Bishopsgate we have a gym, a great canteen where you can get good, healthy food of all kinds – we even have a barber shop onsite.
Adding to a world famous skyline
22 Bishopsgate will soon be the home to 12,000 people, but right now, it's still about maintaining our precision and focus. We've reached the topping out, but there is still work to do creating this working environment that is more advanced than anything London has ever seen. It's been an amazing journey so far and I am immensely proud of the team. We're all looking forward to the final stages of this iconic project.