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9 April 2024

Building an inclusive and sustainable workspace:


A case study in reimagining Hippo’s Leeds HQ

In late 2023, Hippo embarked on a journey to refurbish its Leeds headquarters at Aireside House. The workspace spans over two levels; a main office, meeting suite and kitchen/dining area on the first floor and the Hippo Campus event space on the ground floor.

The project’s focus was not just about updating the interior design and physical infrastructure of Aireside House, but going beyond that and reimagining the workplace as reflection of Hippo’s core values. Though aesthetics and functionality were key considerations, a core goal of the workplace was to build a space that embraced diversity, inclusion and belonging, and incorporated environmental and sustainability best practices through.

Creating an inclusive workplace environment

A cornerstone of the refurbishment project at the Aireside House office was inclusivity. We recognise that diversity encompasses a spectrum of needs which drove us to undertake a comprehensive approach to ensure that every employee visiting the facility feels valued and accommodated. These considerations span from physical accessibility to catering to neurodiverse preferences – with the ultimate goal of creating an environment where everyone can thrive.

One of the primary focuses of the refurb project was physical accessibility features of the office. Lowered worktops, sinks, and dining facilities were installed to accommodate wheelchair users, while the absence of raised flooring and heavy doors has ensured ease of movement throughout the space. The Aireside House project also supports Hippo’s aim of achieving Level 3 Disability Confident Employer status by 2025.

Making our workplaces inclusive and supportive for neurodivergent individuals is also a key consideration. Though we are in the early days of our journey to provide environments and processes that support our neurodivergent community and have plenty of progress to make, we are proud of our work in the area so far. For the Aireside house refurb project, measures included considering the placement of furniture and partitions, and creating zones conducive to focus and relaxation for neurodivergent individuals.

Alongside physical measures, we also considered potential sensory impairments. This extended to clear and contrasting signage, neutral wall colours, and recognisable applications on all glass partitions catered to individuals with visual impairments. Similarly, acoustic panels, soft furnishings, and upgraded audio equipment were introduced to support those with hearing impairments. Looking ahead, we have plans to introduce future enhancements such as induction loops for large gatherings.

Beyond these fundamental considerations, the office refurbishment project extended to incorporate a range of wider holistic inclusivity measures. Private spaces for nursing mothers, prayer rooms for religious observance, and pet-friendly policies all contribute to supporting the different lifestyles and preferences of Hippos.

A clean, modern, attractive workspace with various members of staff busying themselves on laptops. The room is punctuated with bold colours, greenery and exposed brick walls.

Improving environmental performance

Alongside our measures around inclusion, we also ensured that sustainability considerations were a priority for the refurbishment project. This encompassed key areas such as material selection, energy systems and choice of contractors – with every decision guided by our Social Value Strategy and commitment to improving resource efficiency and minimising our impact on the environment. This work supports our commitment to becoming a net zero business by 2040.

We adopted eco-friendly building materials and practices throughout the project. This included installing upcycled furniture where possible and ensuring that new furniture was sourced from sustainable sources either via recycled content or sustainable processes (FSC certified). Likewise, low VOC paints and NSF/ANSI 140 sustainability certified carpets were prioritised throughout the project, all measures that minimise waste and reduce carbon emissions.

Materials were a key consideration, but energy efficiency also needed to be optimised to minimise our usage and help to reduce resource consumption and reliance on fossil fuels. LED lighting, PIR (passive infra-red) sensors, and new energy efficient appliances were all installed to achieve this, alongside transitioning from gas-fired heating to more efficient air conditioning systems.

Contractor collaboration is key

Another theme central to the success of the Leeds refurbishment project was our collaboration with ethical contractors and local suppliers throughout. Through strategic sourcing and carefully selecting contractors, Hippo was able to reduce the overall travel miles of the project, whilst supporting local businesses within West Yorkshire. The total number of miles travelled by all tradespersons to deliver the project was just 1000 and the maximum distance of all material suppliers or manufacturers was no more than 30 miles.

A blueprint for success

The refurbishment project at Aireside House showcases that by embracing inclusive and sustainable design principles, you can create a workplace that not only facilitates collaboration and innovation, but also prioritises the needs of a diverse workforce and contributes to better environmental performance.