Chch law firm happy to be exposed

Extensive strengthening work on show

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012
Malley & Co Lawyers receptionist Rachel Meek
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

NO SECRETS: Malley & Co Lawyers receptionist Rachel Meek shows off the exposed structural brace designed to ease fears of staff and clients in the firm’s central Christchurch office.

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A Christchurch law firm has adopted an open-wall policy to reassure staff and clients of the safety of its new central-city office.

Malley & Co Lawyers this month moved from temporary premises in Riccarton to a multi-storey office in Colombo St.

It has helped ease concerns by showing the building's extensive strengthening work through an open boardroom wall.

The 115-year-old firm occupied the 10th floor of the now-demolished Grant Thornton building in Cathedral Square until the February 2011 earthquake.

Partner and acting general manager John Shingleton said being at eye level with the cathedral tower as it collapsed was an experience staff would not forget, and it created fears about a central-city return.

The new building's ground-floor tenant, ASB Bank, had also exposed the steel reinforcing.

“The wall has been left open and a section of the reinforcement of the superstructure is exposed, allowing everyone to understand the engineering behind the safety work the building has undergone," Shingleton said.

The brightly painted design was "quite arty".

"It was to show how the building has been structured, but also we thought, ‘Why not make it like a piece of art?' It's turned out better than we thought actually."

The decision to return to the central city was not made lightly.

"You got used to being in the suburbs and it was like the ‘new normal', which was the word being bandied around," he said.

"It's been a process of gradually talking about it and staff saying, ‘Hey, we'd rather we were all back together again'."

Other building owners and tenants should consider a similar approach, Shingleton said.

"We can't pretend that this wasn't traumatic, and we can sit down and look at plans and percentages of the [building] code, but the reality is for businesses to come back to the city you need employees who are happy to go and clients and customers who feel secure enough that they'll come into the building," he said.

"You can do all the advertising to say it's safe, but there's nothing better than seeing it with your own eyes."

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- The Press

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