Making Space to Innovate: An Interview with Plus X’s Olga Hopton - Brilliant Noise

Making Space to Innovate: An Interview with Plus X’s Olga Hopton

By Anna Perry, June 2021. 12 min read. Posts

We really give a damn. And we want everything we do at Brilliant Noise to reflect that.

We’re working hard for our B-Corp certification, and we’re still working hard to prove that sustainability runs deep in our business. What we do, why we do it, and where we do it really matters. That’s why we’re moving!

We’re going to Plus X Brighton innovation hub. Plus X are creating co-work spaces across the UK with one aim: to optimise healthy and sustainable working practice — for the residents, for the community and for the wider environment. These aren’t just offices, they’re whole ecosystems for business and startup support.

Ahead of the move, we spoke to the hub’s MD, Olga Hopton, about how the building is leading the way for happy, healthy and sustainable work space. 

Why are we so keen to be part of the Plus X family? Here’s why.

Winning green credentials

“Thinking about the green agenda is thinking about well-being.”

We need to care for the planet. We need to care for ourselves. But what if we could do both at the same time?

The Plus X approach is all about linking high well-being standards to the health of the surrounding environment. “It’s fundamental we all start thinking like this about the green agenda,” Olga explains, “because it is the only way to drive our well-being, and therefore productivity.” Inspiring stuff. But what’s in it for the planet?

“We’re trying to set an example,” she says. “We have a zero-to-landfill policy, our drinks are delivered by bicycle, and we very much try to work with startups and scale ups to showcase their green innovations in the space.”

The space is littered with design made from sustainable materials. They’re hoping to inspire Plus X residents to innovate with care for the environment. Olga expands:

“We have tabletops made out of recycled yogurt pots by a Welsh startup. The big boardroom table is made from cardboard, which is, again, a material invented in the UK. Nothing is shipped from China, so we have a lot less carbon mileage.”

Making sustainability part of the furniture. That’s the way forward.

Creating a healthy habitat 

“ There is an underlying biology that drives all of the choices we’re making.”

But what about wellbeing? Sustainable workspaces aren’t just about the impact we have on the outside environment. They’re also about supporting a healthy environment within. Olga tells us:

“Plus X is the first building in the South East on track to achieving the WELL Building Platinum standards certification. There is an underlying biology that drives all of the choices we’re making.” But what do those sustainable choices look like? Olga explains:

“Our air conditioning system is designed for a building with more people than we ever intend to have, just to make sure that we have strong airflow volumes. We test our water regularly, making sure that it meets high standards, and we also have air quality monitors on every floor.”

But we all have very different needs. That’s just human, and Plus X understands that. From quiet booths and conference rooms to a roof terrace – there are few needs the hub won’t cater to.

“We’re focused on individuality,” Olga tells us. “Individuals work best in different environments depending on different tasks and different times of the day, and we encourage that movement with feature staircases. It’s also about making sure that we have enough spaces where people can come together and collaborate.”

Giving a damn about detail

“Working with architects and designing new spaces, I love the fact that I know who made everything and where it came from.”

When it comes to sustainability, nothing gets left behind.

“We really had to think hard about the materials we use,” Olga notes. “We purposefully stayed away from carpets with VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which aren’t good for health or the environment, using natural materials like plywood instead.”

The hub hasn’t let much slip in terms of tools and facilities either. Along with an upgraded AV system and drawing-board areas, Olga tells us: “We also have state of the art workshops. We hope to run team-building sessions where people can really get stuck-in, making things with their hands. It’s been proven that new ideas spark more often in those who get physically creative because they’re not using the usual neural pathways.”

We’re SO excited to get hands-on.

Thinking globally, acting locally

“ We used to go on away days to come together. Now we come to the office to come together.”

We already know that Brighton is a hub for digital startups. It’s the perfect home for us. But there are so many other regional areas across the UK with untapped potential.

“I think this year has really highlighted the need for hubs like Plus X,” Olga tells us. “The five day commute to London is not coming back but I think we all appreciate, after months of working from home, that it’s good to get out.”

Plus X aims to build 25 locations by 2025. Their regional hubs regenerate areas with curated community collaboration (like the BRITE programme), while giving teams somewhere fresh and inspiring to go to work (that doesn’t take a long, polluting commute).

Curating innovation

“It’s key for us to have people in the building who are brave and bold, because they will innovate. They will change the future.”

So, that’s the building. But who’s inside? Us, of course! But what does the community look like?

We wanted to know more about Olga’s vision for the kind of inspirational businesses Plus X hopes to attract and nurture. And she gave it to us straight:

“Pioneers scare other people. But that’s good. The boat is here to be rocked and we want people in our boat who will be rocking it. Young ideas can be very fragile and they need a space where they can breathe. And we want to be that space. We are in a privileged position to be trailblazers and showcase people who might not have that opportunity.”

A place to inspire and be inspired. That’s the place for us.

We’ll continue to create like we care, and produce with a purpose, and Plus X is just the place to do it.

With our big move, our own sustainability story is about to get a bit more exciting. But what’s yours? Get in touch to see how we can help tell your story.