Bee House, Oxfordshire - Ashdown Phillips & Partners
Sustainability at The Bower, London
January 13, 2022
Great Western Studios, London
August 14, 2020

Bee House, Oxfordshire

In 2018 we started discussions with our client, MEPC, about the possibility of investing in more flexible workspace across Milton Park. Having managed Milton Park Innovation Centre since 2015 at an average of 96% occupancy, we knew there was a clear need in the area for high quality flexible workspace and not enough available spaces to meet the demand.

Having been handed back an older building that due to its unusual design was proving difficult to let, MEPC started to consider this as a possible redevelopment for their next flexible workspace. As an existing and trusted service partner to the Client, Ashdown Phillips were asked to be part of this journey with a view to running the facility once it was open.

In 2019 we joined MEPC to help identify the best architects to redevelop Building 140. There was a clear front runner in SRA Architects, who understood the brief and had some exciting ideas which we were all keen to develop. Over the next year we provided expertise to help the design team create spaces which would meet the market demand and work operationally, as well as creating a business plan that evolved along with the design to ensure that the numbers would stack up.

While the project took a break during the pandemic, we watched with interest as the world of work changed, resulting in more businesses opting for flexible space options or downsizing into high quality serviced offices. Milton Park was no different, with occupancy rates seeing only a 4% drop during this time.

In 2021, the £12.4m project ramped up. MEPC named the building, Bee House, and the theme started to grow wings. After the plans were announced at OxProp Fest 21 the anticipation around the project was huge, resulting in a surge of enquiries which we managed, carrying out tours while it was still in development and even pre-letting several units.

In early 2022 we started setting up the infrastructure in readiness for opening day, including the recruitment of a brand new team to run the venue. Getting the right mix of people to match the vibrant personality of the building was key, so an assessment centre was held to efficiently identify talent and test the team dynamics.

On 20th May 2022 (World Bee Day) Bee House, Oxfordshire’s largest flexible workspace, was officially opened by MP David Johnston. The mobilisation of the project continued for a further six months, with Ashdown Phillips taking the lead on the Smart Space app implementation, collating and reporting snagging issues and setting policies and procedures.

The building is highly sustainable with a BREAMM Excellent certificate, EPC B rating, bio-retention swales in the external landscaping, chemical free cleaning, EV car charging and e-bike chargers, along with Smart Spaces technology to run the building as efficiently as possible.

The target for year 1 was to reach 20% occupancy and by 18th July 2022 we had already hit 43% with many more people snapping at our heels to take up memberships within the Honeycomb Co-working area and business wishing to hold their meetings and events with us.

In September 2022 Bee House won Best Commercial Development at the OxProps Awards.