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The design of a vast manufacturing facility built five years ago has proved so successful that Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation chose to repeat the formula for their latest project

Model workplace


Unconventional design solutions that offer new ways of working can transform a workplace – and it's easy to gauge the success of such a project over a five-year period.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation opted for a radical new office design when the company built the first of two new manufacturing facilities at East Tamaki in 2001. Facilities Manager Cameron Butler says the office and plant arrangement worked so well that when the company needed to expand, architect Ashley Muir of Mason & Wales Architects was again commissioned – to come up with a duplicate.

Muir describes the design as complex as well as unconventional.

"These are vast buildings," he says. "The first building, known as the O'Hare building, is the size of four football fields. The new Stewart building is a little smaller at three football fields, but is still nearly 200m long and 100m wide."

Muir says large manufacturing facilities are typically warehouses designed on purely functional lines, with little consideration given to the staff work environment.


"The Fisher & Paykel Healthcare project turns that concept around – these buildings put people first."

The exterior reflects this policy. Although the buildings are tall, the roofs are layered, stepping down to create a welcoming, more intimate entrance.

"Sunscreen awnings also help break the apparent size of the building, giving it a more human scale," says Muir.

The single-level design reflects the company's open management philosophy and flat hierarchy – as does the open-plan layout and the extensive use of glazed walls throughout the office. A series of glass office modules, accommodating 40-60 people each, are separated by landscaped courtyards that provide a restful outlook for all staff.

"Staff in these offices can also look diagonally right through the building – a distance of about 200m," says Muir. "The transparency allows them to feel part of a big team."

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporate Relations Manager Simon Hall says the glazed walls provide a visual connection that fosters communication and staff interaction, and enhances productivity.

"The offices are also designed to allow for flexibility," he says. "Research and development staff can be working on different projects at different times and may need to regroup, depending on the job at hand. There are also meeting and breakout rooms, some equipped with audiovisual technology."

The office modules open into a long internal street that runs the length of the building, its sections defined by a variety of colours. Another similar street runs along the side of the warehouse.

"The streets also function as an insulating buffer, keeping heat from the sun at bay, and consequently improving the efficiency of the air conditioning," says Muir.

Ceiling heights throughout the building are high – a reflection of the large size of the work spaces.

"The sheer size of the rooms and production floor dictated the high ceilings – the scale and proportion of the spaces had to be right to provide a comfortable working environment," says Muir.

Butler says the new building has been designed to allow for the 20% annual growth of the company, which exports 98% of its healthcare products. The Stewart building will manufacture continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy products, which are used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Butler says Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is particularly appreciative of the work undertaken by Mainzeal Construction and the companies featured here.

"We were full to capacity in the O'Hare building, and are grateful for the chance to complete the building a little sooner. Earthmoving contractor Dempsey and Wood managed to complete work ahead of schedule, despite wet weather, which helped to fast track the project."

For details, contact Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, 15 Maurice Paykel Pl, East Tamaki, Auckland, phone (09) 574 0100. .

First published date: 20 September 2006

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