British Airways


When British Airways had the opportunity to build their corperate headquarters in parkland near Heathrow Airport they seized the chance to make a quantum leap forwards, to a new way of working. The building needed to house over three thousand employees and be the physical launch pad for business success well into the twenty first century. One of the objectives of this building was to create a base from which people can better team work using flexible workspaces and the latest communications. To help achieve this British Airway identified feng shui as one of the ideologies that could be incorporated into the design process. The building itself had to support new ways of working together and more effective communication.

To achieve this and provide maximum flexibility, the work spaces are all open plan. Even Bob Ayling, then chairperson, worked in an open plan environment. BA found that humans work most effectively in teams of four to eight people. Therefor the open plan areas were set up to work in teams of six to eight people.

The chief architects' Niels Torp and Øyvind Neslein had begun to design the building in way that incorporated many of the fundamental feng shui principles. Coming from Norway where sun light is particularly important during the dark winters, they had carefully considered how each part of the building would benefit from natural light. They created the idea of building twelve separate houses connected by a main street so that each part of building receives plenty of natural light along with beautiful views of the parkland. Every part of the building has a bright sunny atmosphere.

The Street that connects the twelve main office spaces is a wide pedestrian walkway covered by a glass roof. In the street are cafes, restaurants, bank, shops, meeting rooms, library and main reception area. All this is surrounded by parkland with lakes, trees and paths.

My first contact with British Airways on their Waterside project was an invitation from Chris Byron to give a feng shui presentation at one of their lunch time meetings in 1997. When I arrived I was introduced to a group of about twenty people including the architects and British Airways staff.

I answered a series of probing questions and responded to an in depth examination of feng shui. Some days later I got the news that I should meet with Øyvind Neslein and get started.

My philosophy when involved in large building projects is to help people make better informed decisions whenever they have a choice. I believe that a well-designed building incorporating the principles of feng shui gives a distinct competitive edge over its rivals, as the people working there become more productive, suffer less from stress related illness and tend to remain with the company for longer.

Once I had completed all my research I was able to make suggestions on the use of colours, plants, materials, shapes, furniture and seating arrangements. These have been incorporated into the design of this building. My visits to the building confirm my belief that this is a much happier place to work and BA have experience positive results in terms of productivity, absenteeism and staff turnover.


The following are positive Feng Shui features of the British Airways Waterside building.


Not in the shadow of another building.

The site is fortunate in that the building is not in the shadow of any other taller buildings which would lead to a deficiency of energy as the sunlight would be denied to the part of the building in the shadow. The whole building has good exposure to natural light and is therefor charged by all the different kinds of energy generated by the sun as it moves through the sky.


Surrounded by more natural healthy energy.

The parkland surrounding the Waterside building will generate its own energy. The trees, bushes and grass will radiate a natural, organic energy which will drift through the Waterside building. This helps maintain a more natural healthy energy in peoples own bodies. Research in hospitals has shown that there is an advantage to being in bed close to a window with view of a natural landscape. There appears to be a psychological benefit to being able to see the kind of landscape that has the air, water and food we need for life. The Waterside building has been cleverly designed to ensure that everyone has views of the parkland or the courtyards between the houses.


Close to fresh water.

Our bodies are 70% water and because of this water close to our bodies is considered to have a special influence. The chi energy of the water has the ability directly affect the chi energy of the water inside our bodies. It is as though the water in each location radiates the same frequency of chi energy. Historically people have gone to spa towns, the sea side or to places with special spring waters to heal themselves or convalesce after an illness. Most people choose to go near the sea, a lake or river for holidays to rest and immerse themselves in this kind of chi energy. The idea is that if you can surround yourself with fresh, unpolluted and healthy water it will have a favourable influence on the water in your body and therefore make it easier to achieve good health. The Waterside building is close to a lake and has a water feature at the end of the street. The lake will help generate a healthy flow of chi energy close to the building, whilst the water feature will help keep the air clean and create a more refreshing atmosphere.


Glass roof over street.

The high glass roof gives the street the feeling of being outside. The atmosphere here is open, big and spacious. The ideal contrast to the more busy working spaces. This provides the opportunity to have a change of environment simply by conducting a meeting in the rooms on the street.

The considerable exposure to sunlight will make it easier for chi energy to enter the street creating a situation where the chi energy circulates quicker and changes more often. The result is that spending time in the street or using the facilities on the street such as the meeting rooms, quest centre, plazza, espresso bar or cafe will be more invigorating and help re energise peoples minds.

Houses have large windows and shaped to provide plenty of natural light.
Views of court yards and park.

The new offices, located in the houses off the street, have been designed so that their width and the size of the windows on each side provides everyone working in the offices with plenty of natural light. Apart from being less strenuous the eye, this promotes good circulation of chi energy and reduces the risk of chi energy stagnating. Each courtyard that is overlooked by the offices has a particular international theme, which encourages a more global feel to the whole building.


Open plan allows healthy flow of energy.

The open plan design makes it easier to give everyone good exposure to natural light. In this arrangement chi energy can flow more easily helping to create a more lively space to work in. It is a layout that greatly reduces the risk of a stuffy atmosphere in which it seems difficult to get things done.

Cells set up to promote team work.

The cells within the offices have been design to maximise your ability to create natural teams that can work well together. The aim has been to help people achieve as much as is possible whilst maintaining harmonious relationships with each other. The flexibility of the workstations allows users to turn to face their colleagues and to also face a favourable direction when working on parts of a project by themselves.



Colours, seating and atmosphere


Much effort was put into creating a wide variety of atmopsheres for the meeting rooms to provide for different setting for meetings. The idea being that a bright colourful room would be conducive for meetings that require greater expression and muted, soft, calming colours for rooms that would require concentration and focus over longer periods of time.


The seating was chosen to compliment this. Sitting in high chairs or on stools can be beneficial for short meetings that require greater alertness whilst sitting in lower softer chairs can aid more relaxed, longer meetings.


Use of plants.

The easiest way to improve the atmosphere of an office is to use plants and fresh flowers. They radiate natural chi energy, clean the air and may reduce levels of electro magnetic fields. Unfortunately many offices do not follow this approach and fail to allow the space for plants. In the Waterside offices space has been allocated to plants and a variety of plants have been incorporated into each area.

Screens made of plants.

One of the impressive features of the offices is the screens made from plants. These provide all the privacy of normal screen but is another way to add more plants into the office spaces. In the theory of Feng Shui the ivy on the screens will have their own chi energy which acts as a more effective barrier to fast flowing chi energy that could make an open plan office too distracting.

Trees in street.

The trees in the street add strong upward energy and bring more chi energy into the street. One potential problem with a long street is that chi energy can speed up along the street, particularly where there are flat shiny surfaces, such as the large windows. The trees create an excellent barrier slowing the flow of chi energy making it a more harmonious atmosphere. Sitting next to the trees is helpful if you feel you need a little more up energy and inspiration.



The workstations have been designed to give maximum flexibility. Without moving the workstation people can sit facing up to four different directions. Using the round meeting table people can also sit facing into the room so that everyone in the team faces each other.

Wood surface.

The wooden surface on the workstation helps keep a clean surface with a good flow of energy whilst providing a relaxing natural surface.

Adjustable chairs.

The chair will have the biggest influence on how well people can avoid back, shoulder and neck aches. The most important considerations are the angle of the seat base, the height of the chair and the position of the chair relative to your work. All these are fully adjustable.