How to manage "Sky-High" risk when the only way is up
The British have a distinct way of understatement, even when it comes to playing down the power of their most treasured institutions. Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street, for example, are two of the country's most famous addresses - the UK seats of power for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer - while 221B Baker Street was the modest yet eccentric home of Britain's most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, as penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The same nonchalance, or almost indifference, could be argued for One Canada Square, one of the capital's tallest and most iconic seats of power and the first structure to be built in the disused London docklands, the designated zone that was to become the UK's financial centre, Canary Wharf. With its vaunted pyramid crown, the 800-foot (243-metre) skyscraper - briefly Europe's tallest building when it was built in 1990's represented a muscular Phoenix of glass and steel rising from the ashes of the widespread dereliction of London's East End on the wharf and quay sides of the Thames.
Canary Wharf, named for the ships that originated from the Canary Islands and ended their journeys at the docks there, contains around 16,000,000 square feet (1,500,000 square metres) of office and retail space. The Canary Wharf Group owns around 7,900,000 square feet (730,000 square metres) of that space. It is home to either the world or the European headquarters of tenants that read like a Who's Who of the financial and media industries, including Barclays, Citigroup, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Fitch Ratings, HSBC, Infosys, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, MetLife, Moody's, Morgan Stanley, RBC, S&P Global, Skadden, State Street, and Thomson Reuters.
From the fifty - second floor roof area of One Canada Square - the lift only lists fifty official stops, creating an impression that it will crash through the ceiling and fly around London like Willy Wonka's elevator in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - the skyscraper looks down on the snaking Thames and over breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Although Canary Wharf has sky-high ambition, its day-to-day management is solidly grounded.The Canary Wharf Management team is spread throughout the estate - each team located as close as possible to its areas of responsibility to help each person fulfil their role of keeping the 120,000 daily visitors to Canary Wharf safe. Looking after more than thirty-two of London's tallest buildings across more than ninety-seven acres of prime real estate containing high-value companies and individuals on a daily basis might give lesser individuals a few sleepless nights. But for Canary Wharf Management the job is about teamwork, collaboration, communication, and above all, a sense of perspective.
Emily Scragg, fire, safety, and environment manager is based on the fifth floor of One Canada Square. Australian-born Scragg is no stranger to complex health and safety roles having worked as Tesco's international trading law and technical manager, and prior to leading the Canary Wharf team, she headed up European health and safety at luxury handbag and accessory brand Michael Kors.
"When I was at Tesco and Michael Kors, I was managing standards in remote stores in far-flung areas across the globe, so the risks were less contained, "she said." Now that my job is over a relatively small and compact area, it is easier because it is all here. I can get across the estate on foot in less than half an hour, and everyone I need to talk to is on site.
"Everything is in the same place and in the same time zone, so for me, that helps me and the team to control the risk. It is a circular economy here, so we can shut down risk in record time. Everything moves so fast. If someone anywhere has an injury, I have a report on my desk within the hour.
"The area is about unique connectivity. We have London City Airport down the road, so people literally fly in, and you could be on a plane to Europe in less than half an hour. We are also at the centre of London's rail, road, and river connections. Also, when it opens in 2018, we will be the hub for Crossrail and the new Elizabeth line, and we are actively promoting Canary Wharf as a walking and cycling destination with the Santander cycles.
"The way people get here is changing. Our tenants and visitors are less likely to drive. We are even in a position where we can convert some of the car park space into community and retail space.
"The population is also set to double in size in the next few years as Canary Wharf becomes a residential location. We already have more than 300 retail outlets, and we host concerts, exhibitions, and the London Marathon passes through our streets bringing thousands more visitors."
The retailers they have at Canary Wharf are all top-drawer brands including designers Paul Smith and Scragg's previous employer, Michael Kors. Canary Wharf also boasts the UK's biggest Waitrose, which even has its own champagne bar, a first for a British supermarket.
"We are all about creating a sense of community as Canary Wharf has its own arts and events team looking after art displays, country music, jazz, and even vintage markets. Each event is subject to risk assessments and an analysis of the impact it is likely to have on our tenants, visitors, and employees," said Scragg.
Spreading Upwards Rather Than Outwards
Canary Wharf became the attractive destination for the astute financial sector company that needs space but also wants prestige and access to the convenience of central London. Canary Wharf has the room for large companies to spread upwards in Tower Hamlets in a way that isn't possible for many of the existing listed buildings in the City of London's Square Mile.
Spreading up in a thrusting glass and chrome celebration of secular ambition carries its own risks, not least the legacy left when two hijacked jets made the Twin Towers their final resting place and changed the New York landscape, and the world, forever. However, Scragg and her team are keen to point out that Canary Wharf Management constantly monitors all risk activity locally and globally. Heads of departments are required to carry out regular assessments of risk coordinated by the Canary Wharf resilience and business continuity team. Business practices are adjusted following these exercises to reduce the risk to the lowest practical level.
Scragg shares the day-to-day care of 120,000 people with fourteen team members including six fire officers, one fire safety and environmental manager, four health and safety officers, a sustainability manager, a quality manager, and a team administrator. She works closely with the security teams whose patrols cover the landscape either on water or on land with sniffer dogs looking for explosives, the daily routine for Canary Wharf, which was targeted by IRA bombers in the 1990's. Tenants are required to make arrangements for minor injuries such as cuts and burns, while first aid training for Canary Wharf security is targeted to deal with more serious trauma in order to reduce the business impact of any potential event as rapidly as possible.
In addition, the Canary Wharf resilience team runs ongoing business continuity exercises with her team where they mock up scenarios and work with the emergency services to recreate the "what if" training for Canary Wharf's high-rise tenants. Everything from plane crashes to fires and terrorist attacks are rehearsed, and all tenants are required to carry out their own evacuation drills at least once a year, with most adopting a belt-and-braces approach and conducting exercises every six months.
"The buildings are engineered with very conservative margins of error giving an excellent resilience buffer, and we also run scenarios with the security teams to prepare our people to actively identify persons who might be carrying out hostile reconnaissance. We map everything in order to manage the potential risk, and that involves working with our partners in Canary Wharf and the emergency services outside.
"The six fire officers here are all former fire services at watch commander level who know every inch of Canary Wharf. In the case of a major incident, their role is to act as partners to the emergency crews. They will advise the fire service of the best places to set up supply points and bridgeheads with the location of key services in order to reduce risk and expedite extinguishing a fire. We are particularly focused on working with the London Fire Brigade on reducing predetermined attendance time. We see this is as our most vulnerable time, and the sooner we can help the fire service make sense of the site, the sooner they can get on with controlling the fire," said Scragg.
In fact, even if the capital was somehow impacted by a serious business continuity event, the measures in place at Canary Wharf could ensure business as usual for up to two weeks.
Managing Events and Publicity
Canary Wharf is also the go-to address for many of the famous film and programme makers when they want to use the unique skyline to shoot a movie. The needs of each shoot are different, and the press liaison office will coordinate a meeting between the producers, security, and the safety advisor assigned to the project.
"It is never easy with film shoots. We have to find a balance between being welcoming, keeping the public and tenants safe, and not disrupting the work that goes on here around the clock. These businesses operate 24/7, and you cannot simply close a space down to do a film shoot. However, without some control, the shoot is ruined when a tenant unwittingly walks out of the front door of their building."
When they can accommodate the cameras, Canary Wharf rises to the occasion. The event management is a coordination between the lead security officer on site and the safety advisor available on that day. Shot by shot the producer will explain what they want to achieve, security and the film extras will work to secure the area, and final approval to begin the shoot is given by agreement with the lead security officer and the safety advisor. Scragg and her colleague Louisa Bay, fire and safety manager, were present to facilitate the making of the world famous Top Gear, and the recent Absolutely Fabulous comedy feature film was in part shot on location with top names and cameo parts including model Kate Moss being fished out of the Thames. In addition, one of the recent incarnations of the Spider-Man franchise also used Canary Wharf's iconic cityscape as a backdrop.
One of the enduring lines from the 2002 movie Spider-Man is "with great power comes great responsibility" uttered by Peter Parker's dying Uncle Ben to guide his nephew into using his super power wisely and proportionately. Canary Wharf is now having to switch on its own "spider sense" to managing and mitigating the risk of the new population of Canary Wharf, the private residents and tenants who will want to make what was once nothing more than derelict docklands their high-rise homes.
Scragg said, "We have to switch our model from somewhere to work to somewhere to live. These two demands are quite distinct and challenging as on top of the existing retail outlets we want to add schools and other community facilities. We engage with the community on everything that we do to make sure that we do the right things by our residents. We set up the East London Business Partnership to create a network that ensures our local community knows about the contracts available for work required on Canary Wharf. This has been very successful, and 54 per cent of our contracts are placed with the local community. We have always been conscious of our responsibility to work closely with our neighbours and have worked to create a sustainable culture that promotes the high-quality workmanship that our tenants expect.
"We work closely with the London Borough of Tower Hamlet (LBTH), which is our local authority. We manage the cleaning up to the edge of Canary Wharf, and sometimes, with the LBTH's consent, we tidy up around some of the council's streets where we see that we can help. We are a company, not a council, but we do not want to create a stark line of demarcation between ourselves and our neighbours.
"We own the roads and even the quaysides, although not the waterways themselves, so we pride ourselves on keeping our streets and buildings pristine, and that includes our car parks, which are meticulously maintained. You will see no wrappers, no chewing gum anywhere inside our area. This will be increasingly important as the estate will double in the next ten years with another 100,000 people, which will necessitate the building of schools, for example. The whole place is going through a radical change, and we have to be ready for it."
Here, Canary Wharf is a work in progress. It already boasts an arts and events team and has a conference centre and the East Wintergardens where many events already take place. Canary Wharf is also a popular venue for weddings because of its dramatic photographic potential overlooking London and the plethora of catering companies that offer everything from buffets to banquets.
Birds of a Feather
Best known for its concrete, glass and steel, Canary Wharf is a continual source of surprise. Riverside wildlife, including Sammy the seal, bring amateur enthusiasts to the East London location, and the centre is currently celebrating its second annual wildlife photography competition. Canary Wharf even has its own community garden in Crossrail Place, a trend that can only grow as the business constituency begins to merge with a more cosmopolitan residential blend of tenants and the urban makes way for the more urbane.
But the exotic wildlife has brought is own challenges as the native bird population that circled East London long before the businesses arrived poses an aerial threat to the shiny edifices - and to themselves. Scragg, who is in discussion with glass specialists and building fabricators as part of her Canary Wharf safety role, explained, "We have male birds nesting here who, as part of their mating rituals, drop stones into the water-or what they assume is water but is in fact glass. This is because, the experts tell us, the ripples represent an allure to the female of the species. It is a hell of a shock to workers in those buildings when a stone, dropped from a great height, comes crashing through the glass. It sounds like a bullet and leaves a hole like one as well."
Birds are not the only high-rise risk that Canary Wharf deals with. Legionella, water-based bacteria, present specific risk to Canary Wharf's density of high-rise dwellings and offices where there are more than 100 cooling towers. And this is not only a locally contained risk. Due to the height of the buildings, the elevated cooling towers could spread spray further than Canary Wharf and affect a wider population - up to an estimated eight miles depending on winds if not regularly checked and contained.
"Canary Wharf Management ensures that regular training is given to all of the duty holders in the business, from technicians to the managing directors," she continued. "And we work extremely hard as a business to monitor and check the estate. We work with two expert consultancies as a belt-and-braces approach as each is monitoring the work of the other as well as our own. We have never had a case of confirmed Legionella, which is testament to the work we do, and we are now in the position to be able to self-certify our work as LBTH has identified us as low risk."
Waste and Efficiency
Scragg's job is not all about risk. A large proportion is dedicated to making Canary Wharf more sustainable as a community and working with its 350 retailers and more than 200 tenants to drive waste down and efficiency up. Canary Wharf Management has set ambitious targets to achieve zero waste to landfill and recycling targets of 85 per cent for retail areas. Canary Wharf's retail management team and Lugano Kapembwa, the sustainability manager, have been particularly successful in the last year and a half, achieving a 20 per cent improvement in waste figures through an intensive targeted intervention programme in collaboration with a specialist waste management company. This initiative was recognised as a finalist at the recent Chartered Institute of Waste Management awards, positioning Canary Wharf as a leader in sustainability practices.
Perceptions persist though. One is that Canary Wharf is where lights are left on 24/7 across the estate. One of the key changes in the next year will be promoting the reality: almost all of the lighting is LED, and where seen on at night is to allow 24/7 businesses such as news agencies and banks to operate across various time and currency zones or for cleaners and maintenance to do their jobs. Grey water is also recycled to water the green lungs of Canary Wharf, the park and planted areas of the estate.
Businesses across Canary Wharf are also taking part in a benchmarking exercise to share, understand, measure, and manage the waste they are using. By collaborating with data, Canary Wharf businesses can set their own reduction targets and share best practices, an issue that is of concern not only to the companies themselves, but also to the wider investment community that wants to ensure its money is going into truly green enterprises.
There has been a lot of talk of the impact of Brexit on London's financial status in the world, but Scragg is confident that it will be "business as usual" as far as Canary Wharf is concerned. "Yes, there may be some change for some of the businesses here, but no one will be doing anything rash. Everything is planned and thought through. For example, the average lease here is over ten years, so it will take a long time to have an effect on our existing tenants," she said. Outside of this, the type of tenant that Canary Wharf has been home to will diversify with the establishment of Level 39 - the technology hub that has been founded by Canary Wharf Management from the eponymous thirty-ninth floor of One Canada Square.
"There is nowhere else in the world like Canary Wharf. We take such pride in the work that we do, and the sense of cleanliness, safety, and security is evident from the moment you set foot on the estate," she added.
The only way is up for Canary Wharf as 3,000 new homes and thirty or more new towers will reshape the London skyline over the next decade. The estate is mapping out an onward and upwardly mobile future that, thanks to the teams involved and the broader community collaboration, is both bird-proof and Brexit-proof as well as being very British in its understated confidence.