Womble Bond Dickinson has moved its 420-strong Newcastle workforce into The Spark, relocating from the Quayside into a new and improved office within landmark innovation quarter Newcastle Helix.

The transformational move has environmental considerations at the forefront, creating a viable workplace of the future in the centre of an inspiring new community of businesses.

Energy transition is an area WBD champions and specialises in, so the overall design concept was centred around limiting the office’s ecological impact, while providing its people with a collaborative and dynamic workplace in a thriving location.

Spanning four storeys and designed to deliver an ‘activity-based working concept’, each area of the office is intended for a different purpose, including soundproof booths, open group working areas, quiet working zones, traditional desks and office space as well as audio-visual kits to support hybrid and flexible working.

Where possible materials and products were selected from the same manufacturer to minimise carbon impact from transportation. The majority of the furniture was supplied by Sedus Stoll which was the first in the world to achieve EMAS III certification, channelling profits into foundations to fund social and ecological projects around the world.

Worktops in the kitchen contain some recycled materials and are designed to be repaired or reworked into new layouts or repurposed in the future if design layouts change, while carpets were chosen from the same range to minimise wastage and contain recycled materials. They also fall into a buy back scheme from the manufacturer at the end of their life stage. Fabrics come from Northern suppliers, with some made from recycled polyester and engineered to be durable, with many awarded EU EcoLabel status.

Using perimeter walls and shared walls between workspaces minimised the amount of construction materials needed, with partitions and ceilings made from recycled materials that can be recycled at the end of their life.

The layout and design encourage walking between floors rather than taking the lift, and natural daylight is unhindered to the majority of the work areas, reducing energy usage. Sustainable travel is also a key feature of the location and people are encouraged to cycle, walk, or run to work. The office is surrounded by public transport links as close as 0.1 miles away and has secure storage, showers and lockers.

WBD has a long-standing relationship with Newcastle Helix having advised on the district green energy scheme – a centralised energy system for the entire 24-acre site that uses emerging energy technologies, housed in a building designed to blend in with the rest of the quarter. The scheme is a partnership between Newcastle City Council and ENGIE, estimated to provide a carbon emission saving of 30,650 tonnes over 40 years.

The transatlantic firm’s roots in Newcastle date back to 1786 and this milestone move enforces its commitment to the North East, using its local, national and international reach and expertise to benefit the region’s leading sectors, businesses, people and organisations.

Nigel Emmerson, Partner and Head of Office at WBD Newcastle, said: “Newcastle Helix is already renowned as a hub of innovation in Europe and as a firm dedicated to embracing and driving innovation in the legal sector, its values aligned perfectly with ours making it an obvious choice for our new office. It’s fantastic to have moved into The Spark as we first made this commitment during the pandemic to play our part in the economic recovery of the region.

“We were heavily involved in the design as it was incredibly important that we created a space with green credentials that will evolve with us over time. Companies are under increasing pressure to meet sustainability quotas as building back greener tops the global agenda as we approach Net Zero, and as energy transition is a key area for us as part of our re:build Britain campaign, it’s only right that our new office fully incorporates the green agenda.

“The move also signals confidence in the North East and emphasises the demand for ‘offices of the future’ as businesses adapt to new ways of working and collaborating. It isn’t just about the quality of the design and build, it’s unique eco-systems that foster collaboration and support healthy workplace culture. The Spark provides a fantastic space for flexible, activity-based working and a city centre location that will benefit our people and clients.”

Newcastle Helix is a partnership between Newcastle City Council, Legal & General and Newcastle University, bringing together industry leaders, businesses and top researchers into a brand-new innovation cluster.

Following the move, WBD has applied for Fitwel accreditation which is under review. This certification is awarded to those prioritising wellness within the design, development and operation of buildings and communities.

WBD’s search for new office accommodation and lease negotiations were conducted by BNP Paribas Real Estate, while workspace consultants WKspace worked on the design. Funding was secured from HSBC UK.