Sunshine Coast Council | City Hall

How a City Hall connected people, place, and purpose

It was August 2020. Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) were at the end of their journey for the architectural design of the new City Hall development, and about to turn their attention to what lay within. Recognising that the pandemic would have a lasting impact on the concept of ‘work’ and the purpose of ‘workplace’, SCC decided to revisit their initial ideas for the layout inside City Hall and reevaluate their next steps.

Architectural firm Cottee Parker had been working closely with SCC throughout the City Hall development and invited COMUNiTI to join the project team to not only bring our workplace strategy expertise, but also some fresh thinking to the plans to consolidate the Maroochydore, Nambour, and Caloundra Council offices into the new City Hall development.

The Result

A workplace that seamlessly supports employee productivity, wellbeing, and connection to the community and the region, and positions SCC as an employer of choice.

“City Hall has been purposefully designed to build engagement, productivity and innovation, allowing us to better attract and retain great people. And through clever design, it allows team members to be creative, inspire their curiosity, be adaptable and operate with agility.”

– Sunshine Coast Council CEO Emma Thomas

The Task

Our brief was to:

Create a layout that’s fit for today and the future

The City Hall site location, building and floor-plate design had already been created by Cottee Parker when COMUNiTI joined the team. Our task was to reevaluate earlier strategic approaches, with consideration to the evolution of the Council and the impact of COVID, and make recommendations on how SCC could maximise their utilisation of this purpose-built asset for the City. This meant we had to consider the community, business, and commercial purposes of the building, and get a deep understanding of what different Council departments do and what they need from the physical space to deliver on their civic responsibilities today and into the future.


Determine best space and sharing ratios

Initial plans for the City Hall development used benchmarking data to determine the space and sharing ratios. While this data may have held weight pre-COVID, it did not reflect the hybrid nature of work in 2020 and beyond, or the operational realities for SCC employees- how they work, where they work, and what they need to be at their best and do their best work.

COMUNiTI undertook more in-depth investigations to ensure the right data was fed into the development of space standards, typologies and departmental area calculations, both of which then informed the blocking and stacking of teams into the building. Our data also supported the evaluation of departmental relationship adjacencies – deciding where departments would be located in the building.


Develop concepts that bring the Sunshine Coast story to life

From the Glasshouse Mountains to iconic beaches, the local landscape and the unique City Hall building architecture needed to be reflected internally and transposed into a series of spaces that not only supported the SCC values and behaviours, but also told a story about the region’s rich history, vision for the future, and sub-tropical Sunshine Coast way of life.

The Solution

The project team delivered a statement workplace for SCC.

More than just a design project, the strategic space configuration and inspired concepts became a holistic business solution to strengthen community connection and elevate the employee experience.

Far from a cookie-cutter response to the brief, we undertook employee-centred research to address SCC’s direct requirements and this also helped identify untapped opportunities for City Hall, by considering contemporary workplace challenges like:

  • How to co-locate teams to break down silos and increase multi-disciplinary collaboration
  • How to create an environment that attracts employees into the office in a world of hybrid and remote work
  • How to celebrate and support neurodiversity through purpose-designed low-sensory zones, quiet spaces, and wellness areas
  • How to foster belonging and connection by creating spaces that welcome blue and white collar workers, head office and field-based teams, leaders and the frontline
  • How to create design cues that nudge employees towards values-aligned behaviours
  • How to shift towards neighbourhoods as opposed to traditional desk-ownership to increase sharing ratios and create space for future growth
  • How to create greater line of sight to organisational purpose, customers, and community through space and design

The Details

Today the 10,000sqm City Hall building delivers an integrated and experiential journey across 9 storeys (1400sqm floor-plate) for Sunshine Coast residents, visitors, and employees.

Ground Floor: SCC’s Customer Contact and Development Information teams are located on the ground floor, giving these teams direct access to the public for Council-related enquiries.

Taking on a unique approach, this space is a thoroughfare for the site, encouraging public interaction with a large-scale LED wall. The Customer Contact Centre embraces a modern design approach, encouraging relationships between SCC and the community in a more casual, relaxed, and interactive environment.

Community engagement at SCC takes a more casual ‘human to human’ as opposed to ‘front counter’ approach, akin to the banking sector

1st Floor: The amphitheatre-style, double height Council Chambers are accessible to the community from the ground floor and are visible from the street. This provides a greater sense of connection to residents and tangible transparency, which was a key design principle for the Council in the development of the building.

The public can sit and observe Council meetings in the amphitheatre-style chambers or watch the proceedings from the park across the road

3rd Floor: Level three is home to a full-floor working cafe. It’s a communal space that welcomes employees right across SCC, which means teams from libraries, community and sports centres, and field depots feel welcome to visit, share a meal, have a space to work and connect and socialise with their colleagues. While all floors have small tea points, the communal cafe draws employees from throughout the building to a central area for lunch, and this encourages socialisation and relationship-building across departments and floors within the City Hall building.

“Every employee, regardless of their nominated workplace throughout the region, is welcome to work from City Hall”

-Sunshine Coast Council Mayor, Mark Jamieson

4th – 8th Floors: The core of the building houses the majority of SCC’s 1,300+ employees and offers a variety of:

  • Meeting Rooms
  • Formal and informal collaboration spaces
  • General desk work areas
  • Individual booths and quiet workspaces
  • Wellness and relaxation spaces
  • Alfresco areas
  • Tea points
  • Bike storage and end-of-trip facilities, and
  • A communal cafe

The sharing ratio at City Hall is 70% across the floors, which supports a much larger workforce than the building plans had originally held capacity for.

The floor-plates are zoned to support noisier, high-energy, social and collaborative spaces, transitioning into quieter, individual, deep-cognitive workspaces. This zoning gives employees choice as to where they work based on the particular task or activity they’re carrying out at different times throughout the day.

Zoning also nudges desired employee behaviours through subtle cues in both materiality, colour and texture, along with furniture style. In the high-energy collaboration spaces, you’ll observe brighter, more colourful fabrics and textures, along with large furniture settings encouraging multiple people to gather. The colours are also reminiscent of the beach and suggest larger, more boisterous gatherings. In contrast, the quieter zones are designed to be more intimate spaces, with deeper colours and textures, reflecting the solitude of the hinterland.

The centre spine of the floor-plate clusters the meeting rooms, quiet rooms, and office amenities, allowing the natural light to penetrate deep into the floor-plate. These spaces also undulate down the corridor, clad in timber finishes, symbolising the mountains of the region.


9th Floor: The top floor is for the people of the Sunshine Coast. A multi-function space, it’s not only used for Council-employee events and Council-hosted external events, like citizenship ceremonies but it’s also made available for hire for community and business events.

“At the height of the COVID-lockdowns, we needed to strategist and research carefully to determine what a future-proofed workplace could look like for Sunshine Coast Council, during a time when the future of work was unknown.

Some of our recommendations around desk sharing ratios and spaces to support employee health and wellbeing really put City Hall ahead of it’s time – so many organisations are now following suit.

I’m very proud of the outcome for SCC and the impact it’s continuing to have on their people and the community.”

–  Melissa Marsden, Founder & Director, COMUNiTI