Anthony Walsh: Divisional Director

"The building is like one of my children. I’ve grown with it. I’ve learned about it. I’ve nurtured it. I’ve looked after it."

30th November 2020

Anthony is a Divisional Director with our Cardiff office. Responsible for the delivery phase of Treglown Court, he knows the building inside-out.

How did the project come about?

The Cardiff team was working in a rented building and there was an aspiration across the business to build our own office. A few individuals, including our Chairman David Hunter and former Directors Bob Whittington and Gareth Davies, invested a lot of time and effort to make it happen.

And with a practice full of architects, who came up with the design?

Treglown Court was designed by the late Paul Summers, a friend and colleague in the Cardiff office. He was the project architect and I was the project technician. It was my role was to work up the technical details and deliver it. Sadly, Paul passed away before the project started on site. It was my job to detail out the aspiration that was his building…his baby. The building that exists today is a success and testament to Paul’s design and memory.

Can you describe the building for me please?

I call it the hidden gem of Cardiff because it’s tucked away in the back streets of Cardiff Bay. But people who come to visit for the first time immediately know that it’s our office because it’s the standout building on the road. It looks like an office that’s been bespoke designed for architects by architects – because it has!

What was the design and delivery process like?

One thing I love is that we used all of our own services and specialisms. If you look at the manifestations on the glazing, you see what Stride Treglown is all about – Architecture, Landscape Architecture, BREEAM Consultancy, Building Surveying, Graphics, Interior Design, Project Management. It was great that so many staff had an opportunity to input. We learned a lot about collaboration between all of our teams and disciplines – sharing expertise and experience across the business was invaluable. I’m very proud of it. It’s a fantastic building and a great show piece for Stride Treglown.

What was the vision for Treglown Court?

Treglown Court was actually the first BREAAM Outstanding office in the UK. To achieve that accreditation, we had to meet various sustainability criteria; things like daylight and natural ventilation were important. It’s such a light and airy building. It feels healthy and clean. Interestingly, when we moved into Treglown Court, the levels of sickness and absenteeism dropped. I noticed that people were less seasonally affected as perhaps they were in the old office.

That’s something to feel proud about…

It’s great. I also take great pride in the fact that we have never had a single desk fan in Treglown Court. In the old office every desk had a big electric fan. That could mean up to 30 desk fans whirring away during the occupied hours. But here the heating and natural ventilation systems do a great job of maintaining the building’s temperature. I know from the Building Management System (BMS) records that the temperature has never dropped below 19 degrees C, ever. And it’s never exceeded 28 degrees C. It has a temperature variation of 9 degrees across 365 days and I think that’s an amazing statistic.

That’s incredible.

It is. But getting people to understand the physics of a naturally ventilated building has been tricky. It relies on open windows to get a nice draw of air through the building. I’m an early starter and usually in the office around 6:30-7:00 am in the summer. I arrive and straight away manually open all the windows and the roof light. You can literally watch the temperature of the building drop by three degrees on the BMS system and, in doing so, you achieve a nice temperature for the day. However, people will often come in a little later and close the windows because it feels a little cool. Then by 12:00, when the sun’s high in the sky and the temperature’s 30 degrees outside, they’ll complain that the building’s too hot…

That’s one major learning I have taken from Treglown Court – you can’t please everybody all of the time. People are different and they all like the spaces they occupy to be different. Some people like a room to be warm whereas I personally like a room to be cool. One Christmas I got some little plastic Mr Frosty penguins in the Secret Santa!

It sounds like you’re the building’s interpreter…

From day one, I’ve taken a very keen interest in the building – how the systems work, how the ventilation works, how the lighting works, how everything works. The building is like one of my children. I’ve grown with it. I’ve learned about it. I’ve nurtured it. I’ve looked after it. Usually, if there’s a problem, I’m the first person there with my screwdrivers ready! I do it because I care deeply about the building. I want it to perform and function well for everybody using it.

Over the last ten years, have there been any changes made to the building?

The building was initially designed with several zero carbon technologies, things like the biomass system as well as a very small array of photovoltaics (PV) solar panels. Not long after we moved in, the industry started to talk about zero carbon buildings and I was asked to find out how we could make Treglown Court zero carbon. The simple answer was to install a much larger array of PV solar panels.

So in the summer of 2011, we installed a 15.5-kilowatt, 64 panel, 102m2 array of solar panels on the roof and that’s been in operation successfully ever since. As an earlier adopter of the Government’s Feed In Tariff scheme and the Renewable Heat Incentive, the amount of energy we generate actually gives us an income of around £12,000 per year.

Amazing – a building that gives back! Let’s talk about your personal relationship with Treglown Court…

I have a passion and feeling for the building. It’s more than a place of work for me, it’s like my second home. Before lockdown, I would be in the office between 6:00am and 6:00pm five days a week. Perhaps not the healthiest work/life balance but I chose to do that because it’s a happy and healthy environment to work in. For me, going to work isn’t a chore. I like the office and the working atmosphere. And I like the people I work with. That makes your day easy.

Do you think the building embodies the Cardiff office in terms of its culture and values?

Yes, Cardiff is very friendly. The office is open plan so people can talk to each other and pick up on each other’s interests and so we have lots of activities and gatherings. People are more like friends than work colleagues. I think the building has brought people together and the environment makes us feel happy and that helps with productivity which is good for the business.

I hear that a lot, open plan offices do seem to encourage social connections…

They do but an open office can be a distraction too, especially when there’s a lot of joviality and you’re trying to meet a deadline. But if contending with five minutes of raucous laughter every so often is the only thing we’ve got to worry about, that’s lovely isn’t it?

Do you have a favourite building feature?

I love the fact that we’ve got a wild flower species green roof. I go up there from time to time, it’s a great place to be. I remember, the Red Arrows flew over Cardiff and a group of us went up onto the roof to watch. And when NATO were in town, a big Sea King helicopter carrying government people flew right over when I was up on the roof as if I was up to no good! Lots of things have happened in this building, I’ve got so many great memories like that. We’ve seen lots of people come and go, but there are lots of people there on day one who are still here now for the 10th anniversary.

That’s great. Finally, what do you think Paul Summers would’ve thought about the finished building?

He’d have loved it. And I hope he’d think we delivered it to the best of our ability. When we had the official opening, we invited Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment for the Welsh Assembly, to open our building. We had a lot of esteemed guests attend but by far the most important people at the opening event was Paul’s family: his wife Monica, his daughter Tia, Pat and Tony, his parents, and his sister Bethan. They were our guests of honour. It was lovely to be able to celebrate Paul and deliver the building in his memory.