Should more offices swap stairs for slides?

Playground equipment isn't just for kids.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In recent years, this old proverb has weaved its way into the work culture where the importance of downtime has not only been recognised but also promoted.

 

Box.net's office reception slide. Architect: Fennie+Mehl

More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating 'fun' in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and football nets are no strangers to the workplace as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds. So why should the staircase not get a fun makeover too?

You might've taken notice of Google and its obsession with slides, but more and more companies around the world are now jumping on the bandwagon and installing slides in their offices. Some are sleek and minimal, others remind us of wild attraction parks but whatever the design, one ride is enough to bring back playful childhood memories – all from the comfort of the office.

Integrating playground apparatus into the workplace is rarely governed by whim. More than fun smooth chutes, slides mean business - they can give an edge to the workplace and increase job satisfaction.

To inspire you, let's look at some companies with slides in their offices. 

Google Zurich
theCHIVE Austin Texas
theCHIVE Austin Texas
Lego Denmark
Google Detroit
Ogilvy & Mather Jakarta
Opening photo: Ticketmaster London

Office breakout spaces – a matter of collaboration

Breakout spaces are an essential component of office design. All work and no play makes the office a dull space after all.

Unsurprisingly, a breakout space was long thought of as a room where staff can take a break, but companies have been pushing the boundaries of this auspicious little space. Today, breakout spaces pride themselves in their ability to foster creativity and collaboration while offering a space away from the screen. Those cleverly designed, fully integrated little hubs can be as versatile as necessary.

breakout spaces at Cisco San Francisco
Cisco, San Francisco by O+A, photographer Bruno Damonte. 

Relaxed shared workspaces or impromptu meeting points, dedicated breakout spaces can also double as scenes for catered lunches, thus allowing companies to save on venue hire.

breakout space inside Google Dublin's office
Google Dublin, photo by Peter Wurmli © Camenzind Evolution, by Camenzind Evolution in association with Henry J. Lyons Architects

Collaboration lies at the heart of breakout areas. Google, famous for its fresh and forward-thinking achievements in the corporate workplace, holds free lunches at a set time, thus creating long queues at lunchtime. What would be the point in that? To encourage mingling, of course.

informal waiting area at One Workplace
One Workplace, Santa Clara, California, by Blitz

People will chat while they’re waiting. Chats become ideas, and ideas become projects.

Dan Cobley, Google UK's Managing Director
Elevated breakout space at Ogilvy Mather Jakarta's office
Ogilvy & Mather, Jakarta, by M Moser Associates

A breakout space does not have to be a room with four walls; quite the contrary, it should be a shared oasis, open to everyone. Integrating breakout spaces in your office will significantly reduce the demand for traditional meeting rooms and consequently, delays in the decision-making process that are due to unavailable or booked up meeting rooms.

As pictured below, a simple wooden screen and transition in flooring are enough to create a separate space.

breakout area set apart by a timber divider
Y&R Group, Sydney, by The Bold Collective

A flexible, multi-use breakout area will help companies combat rising space costs and boost staff productivity. As such, the modern workplace would be incomplete without one.

Colourful breakout area at Motorola Chicago
Motorola Mobility, Chicago, by Gensler

Multi-sensory design – building for all senses

Architecture is all visual, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Imagine you have just entered the lobby of a luxurious hotel. You gasp, in awe of its striking, eight-story high lobby, with a water feature cascading down at its centre and a soft pile carpet beneath your feet. Before you check in, you pay a visit to the washrooms and are welcomed with a clean, earthy waft of cedar wood - or is it cypress? You inhale deeply; it is comforting. Your eyes then turn to the white Corian vanity units. They look so inviting you can't resist running your fingers along the surface; it feels as smooth as silk, polished to perfection.

What you have just experienced is multi-sensory design, the kind you could never truly savour with your eyes only. The kind that engages all five of your senses. You saw the wonderful height of the lobby, you heard the waterfall, you perceived the scent of cedar wood in the washroom and you felt the polished stone caress your skin.

What about taste, you may ask? It seems implausible for architecture to stimulate our taste buds, but wasn’t it Dali who wrote of the "edible beauty" of Art Nouveau architecture after all? You might be surprised at how powerful a space can be and even more surprised at the emotions it may trigger.

Architecture can elicit a wide array of emotions

Joolz Headquarters in Amsterdam

It is true that architecture can move us. It can bring back memories and elicit strong emotions. It can be intimidating just like it can be comforting. We might feel safe amidst the books of an airy, public library just like we might feel oppressed in the fusty, sombre atmosphere of an office reception area.

Whatever the emotion conveyed, this interaction between architecture and people is never the same. So, what is it that sparks all of these emotions and why do we react differently to a space? What can architects and landlords learn from multi-sensory design and how can they use it to create commercial spaces that would be leased in a heartbeat?

Let's go back to our luxurious hotel lobby and imagine a slightly altered scenario. The eight-story high lobby is still there, in fact, the reception area is now strewn with beautiful, modern art paintings. The water feature has been replaced by an abstract anodised aluminium sculpture, reflected in the marble floor. As for the washrooms, they are still elegant but the scent is gone and the Corian has been replaced with laminate.

Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses

Juhani Pallasmaa

This is retinal-experienced architecture and, at first glance, it appears to be enough. The space is well-designed, but it lacks character and more importantly, it lacks depth. It is one-dimensional.

What can we change? How can we design multi-dimensional spaces? How can landlords improve their commercial space to appeal to more tenants and enhance their revenues?

Designing for the senses

“Architects who understand their users’ needs and feelings design successful buildings” illustrator and architectural designer Justine Bourland told Republic. “I have always been curious to know how the environment we live in has an impact on our perception of space” she continues to say, “we started brainstorming on a system using a polygraph to measure people’s heartbeat and moisture. This is an efficient way to read people’s reaction to their environment.” A few months later, the device in question, created by Bourland and three of her colleagues, existed in real form and experiments were conducted on over one hundred people. 

The outcome was fascinating. The polygraph showed more activity in an urban setting – which meant more stress – and less activity by the sea. “The results have only confirmed that our urban environment is not adapted to our needs anymore” Bourland points out, raising an important question: how can we design better spaces?

Landlords and developers can learn a lot from this experiment. A commercial property designed for the senses could easily command higher rent as the tenant will be engaged in more ways than one. Bourland is well aware of the magnitude of workplace design: “People living or commuting to a city spend most of their time at work. Workplace design should be just as important as that of people’s home” she says, urging landlords to invest more time and money in the workplace design strategy.

Architecture cannot exist without human habitation. The interaction between environment and body is constant and according to Bourland, it “should be the architect’s priority”. When we experience a space, we experience it through our senses and as we all know, we have five of those. That is five different resources for designers to explore and tap into, five different resources often forgotten by landlords attempting to lease a space that only stimulates one, maybe two senses.

So how exactly do we design for the senses and why will your business profit from it? Let’s take it one sense at a time.

1.   Sight –  the primary sense

Torres de Satelite by Luis Barragan
Torres de Satélite, 1958, Barragan and sculptor Mathias Goeritz.

Architects use vision like spiders spin a web – instinctively. Le Corbusier, the icon of modern architecture reinforced the idea that vision is at the heart of everything when he wrote "I exist in life only on the condition that I see" and, as such, it comes as no surprise that architects, furniture designers, landlords, developers, tenants even, all rely on the power of sight.

Sight is what allows us to perceive light, form and colour. Take the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragan, otherwise known as the architect of colour. Barragan’s style can be recognised not only from the distinctive colour palettes he uses but also the serenity permeating his architecture.

Granted, we could not fully comprehend Barragan’s work without our sense of sight, but what makes the urban sculpture above particularly successful is not only the colour palette but also the choice of material. Notice every concrete prism features horizontal shutter marks that add character to the entrance of Satélite, one of Mexico City’s satellite towns. Yes, colour is at the crux of Barragan’s work, but what about materiality?

2.   Touch – the smooth and the rough

castelvecchio step detail

Materials come in all forms – some are polished, others are raw, some are warm, others are cold, some are even made to interact with their surroundings. Juhani Pallasmaa believes tactility leaves less room for mistakes than sight, no illusions, no trickery.  

Let’s consider all the factors: texture, weight, density, heat, are all related to the sense of touch. That leaves a lot of room for architects to experiment with materials and stimulate our senses.

One architect in particular is known for his instinctive approach to materials and attention to detail: if you haven’t already, meet one of the most enigmatic architects of the 20th century, Carlo Scarpa.

The work of Scarpa is a prime example of multi-sensory design. Bringing together time-honoured crafts and modern manufacturing processes, the Italian architect has embraced contrasts and made them his trademark. His renovation of the Castelvecchio museum in Verona, completed in 1964, is an ode to materials and tactility.

Everything, from the walls adorned with various shades of Prun stone, to the sophisticated combination of steel and concrete throughout the space, reflects the architect’s love for materials.

castelvecchio by Carlo Scarpa

Justine Bourland reminds us of the influence materials have over our perception of space: “The design process should follow questions such as what the user will touch, and so what kind of material will be used?” Such design process does not stop at the sense of sight and in the case of the Castelvecchio Museum, pictures struggle to do it justice because our eyes are not enough to comprehend the space.

3.   Smell –  the untapped design resource

Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center
Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, by Perkins + Will

Scents trigger memories, we associate spatial qualities to them: "it smells like home", "it smells like a hospital". If cleverly used, these associations could be utilised in architecture to increase certain emotions, to create a complete brand experience or even, like the Chinese used to with beautifully engineered incense clocks, to tell the time.

Using our olfactory sense in architecture goes beyond plugging in an air freshener. It means tapping into fragrant construction materials to create a naturally scented environment: some trees emanate a resinous perfume and much of the wood used in construction or furniture, like juniper wood, cedar of Lebanon, Atlas cedar, cypress, Thuja or Laurel emanates a particular scent.

So ask yourself – what would a modern office reception smell like? Or a luxurious washroom? Now push the boundaries of this default smell. What materials could you use to create an entirely uplifted olfactory experience for your clients or tenants?

4.   Sound - the invisible that can change a space

Low ceilings can be heard. Open doors, nearby walls, tall columns all have their own reverberation time, their own resonance, and their own low or high-frequency energy.

A change in acoustics can have an impact on the entire space. Deep pile carpets create an aural sense of warmth while marble floors and glass walls convey an aural sense of coldness. It is all about reverberation time. 

I remember the sound of the gravel under my feet, the soft gleam of the waxed oak staircase

Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture

So how can our hearing be stimulated in architecture? Ambient music is an obvious example. Water is an underrated one. Acoustics is key. In the words of acoustic consultant Julian Treasure, “It's time to start designing for our ears”. In a 2012 TED talk,  Treasure talked about "invisible architecture", stating that poor sound affects our health, our education and our productivity in the workplace. And it doesn’t cost a leg and an arm to fix this – acoustic treatments, sound absorbing materials, clever space planning, are all viable solutions to minimise noise levels and improve our behaviour.  

5.   Taste - the bitter and the sweet

Meeting room inside Cision's Chicago office
Cision's Chicago office, by Eastlake Studio

"There is a subtle transference between tactile and taste experiences. Vision becomes transferred to taste as well; certain colours and delicate details evoke oral sensations. A delicately coloured polished stone surface is subliminally sensed by the tongue" says Pallasmaa.

Yes, the sense of taste is strongly related to spaces such as grocery stores, restaurants or bakeries but can’t we use those associations we make in other environments? What do bitterness, sweetness or saltiness look like? Using colours to recall tastes can add depth and character to a space. Paint the wall a bitter chocolate brown, punctuate the space with zesty orange accents… It's all about associations.

Five senses or more?

Rebecca Maxwell is a writer who lost her sight at age three. In a radio broadcast called “Beyond Appearances – Architecture and the Senses”, Maxwell invites those of us who see and design only with our eyes to experience our surroundings in a different way by considering a series of additional senses.

“I believe that there are a lot more senses. We haven't identified them and we don't use them. I think by identifying them we would begin to turn them on, as it were. You see, I think there is a sense of pressure, a sense of balance, a sense of rhythm, a sense of movement, a sense of life, a sense of warmth, even a sense of self, which psychology is beginning to recognise.” That is a lot of senses and a lot of factors for landlords to consider when renting a space. Is it oppressing or is it comforting? Is it inviting?

Human experience is multi-sensory

Maxwell highlights what most of us forget: architecture can impart feelings that will vary from one person to the next. Why? Because we perceive certain architectural atmospheres differently and that is an important aspect to keep in mind when leasing a commercial space.

The hands want to see, the eyes want to caress

Goeth

It is not necessary to design for all senses at once of course but landlords should understand a space can be stimulating in more ways than one. Envision your space like a finely tuned instrument that can interact with its occupants through a wide array of senses. Who is your target and what can you do to find satisfied tenants faster? Design for the senses.

We asked Justine Bourland what building she would like to bring her Time Machine into and she said the Opera House of Sydney. “I can imagine the device would reveal a certain calmness at the start of the visit and excitement at the end, when the user finally walks into the main hall while listening to the musicians play, surrounded by this architectural masterpiece”.

If the Time Machine were yours, would you dare to use it in the commercial property you are renting? What do you think the results would be?

Reception desk design – first impressions matter

The reception desk is the face of a company. It comes as no surprise, then, that it should help promote its values and philosophy.

They come in all shapes and sizes and their materials range from wood, through concrete, to marble. Some are minimalistic, others are extravagant but they all share one goal – they must communicate the values of a company.

Reception desks dictate the tenor of your workplace and as such, the rule is simple: if you want to make a lasting first impression, do not neglect them.

Here is a selection of eye-catching reception desks that feature a bold use of materials and captivating sculptural forms.

GDF Suez & Simply Energy, Melbourne, Australia

contemporary reception desk for GDF Suez Simple Energy
Artillery. Photography Andrew Iser

Reminiscent of a thunderbolt light, strips of light evoke currents of electricity for Australian energy provider GDF Suez.

Atelier Krikos, Punjab, India

sculptural reception desk at Atelier Krikos in India
Studio Ardete. Photography: Purnesh Dev Nikhanj

Asymmetry, sharp angles and a play on textures define the upscale reception area of Atelier Krikos. The two-tone reception desk stands out against the black mirror granite flooring.

10 Brock Street, Regents Place, London

A sculptural bronze reception desk stands proud as the centrepiece of a nine storey atrium. Its dynamic geometry is inspired by the faceted external facade of the building.

bronze reception desk at 10 Brock Street
Reception desk manufactured by Terence Conran's Benchmark Furniture company. Architect: Wilkinson Eyre.

Trading Technologies, Singapore

office reception desk at Trading Technologies
Software company Trading Technologies Singapore office. By Kyoob-id

An interesting blend of materials and styles makes for a striking reception desk built on contrasts. The wooden counter is fitted with a minimalistic cream panel that conveys warmth with a hint of modernism.

Satchi office, Guangzhou, China

sleek reception desk at Satchi office
Feeling Design. Photography © He Yuansheng

White prevails in this lobby and its crispness is highlighted by a deep blue carpet and sculptural lighting. In this reception area, less is definitely more.

Aberdeen Asset Management, Uxbridge, London

chic reception desk design
Laser cut screens by Miles & Lincoln

Miles and Lincoln created weave-patterned, laser-cut panels which add a golden touche of luxe in this corporate reception area.

Analog Folk, Shoreditch, London

cork reception desk
DH Liberty. Photography: Quintin Lake

The waiting area inside Analog Folk features a distinctive chipboard reception desk and polished concrete flooring, thus drawing inspiration from the digital advertising agency's love of traditional values and digital technologies.

Opening photo: Giant Pixel office by O+A. Photography © Jasper Sanidad

Creative restroom signage goes a long way

Restroom signage is a great opportunity to break away from traditional communication tools and convey individuality.

Wayfinding is crucial in public spaces - not only does it help users navigate through the built environment, it also gives the latter meaning. A successful wayfinding system relies on human behaviour and as such, particular attention should always be paid to restroom signage.

There are several reasons why universal toilet signs are not always the go-to choice for offices, restaurants or hotels.  

flamingo restaurant in Istanbul

Indeed, brands that opt for creative toilet signage are given a great opportunity to convey character and individuality. Likewise, landlords looking to up the value of their commercial property can rely on well thought-out restroom signage to stand out from the market. 

Photo source

In the design world, everything is in the details and smart commercial interiors have proven how critical those small, ostensibly insignificant design choices are.

In commercial real estate more than anywhere else, the magnitude of a well-kept restroom is not to be underestimated and a well-designed washroom goes hand in hand with a creative toilet sign. 

To prove it, here are several more images where restroom signage has been taken to a whole new level.

Mulini Beach, Studio 3HLD. Photo by Joao Morgado
Photo source
Novotel Hotel, Paris by Christophe Remy
PHOS Edelstahl Design
The Working Capitol, by Foreign Policy

Does your office washroom reflect your business?

How much influence can a space as small as a washroom have? After all, clients don’t come to your office to visit the restroom, they come to seal a deal. So why should landlords and tenants care about the quality of such an insignificant space? Because it is everything but insignificant.

 

When a potential prospect visits your business, the washroom may well be the first space they discover after the reception area. So why should clients feel respected if your washroom is neglected?

Often overlooked, commercial washrooms are increasingly becoming a benchmark for offices. Designed to create a positive first impression and reflect the values of the company, they are a valuable marketing asset for landlords and developers. “The world is full of people who’ll judge how good a place is by the toilet” says Argent’s Phil Harrison for the RIBA. In order to do business, developers have to understand how influential commercial washrooms are.

Leadenhall building high-spec office washroom

Washrooms in the Leadenhall  Building, by RSHP. Credit: Paul Raftery

Inside RSHP’s Leadenhall Building, otherwise known as “The Cheesegrater”, everything has been thought-out, right down to the bespoke, cheesegrater-shaped basins in the washroom. The latter also feature RSHP trademark cadmium yellow steelwork, a finish which, coupled with Domus porcelain tiles on the floor and bespoke iGuzzini shades, helps create a high-specification space.

Specifying prestige materials and finishes in your washroom can not only increase the marketability of the overall space but also help sublimate the image of a cold, corporate restroom. Such materials include laminated glass, natural stones such as granite, marble or Corian, stainless or textured steel, cast acrylic and even unusual wood veneers for a warmer look. “Washrooms are becoming a key expression of the building aesthetic” says RIBA journalist Pamela Buxton. As such, a washroom which boasts higher-quality materials will stand for the value and potential of a business.

In the heart of Mayfair, at 54 Brooks Mews, the award for most striking space would undoubtedly go to the washroom. According to developers Enstar Capital, the 6,000 square foot space is London’s most expensive office space and the luxurious washrooms could well be the reason why.

London's most expensive office with luxurious washroom

Gold-plated mosaics and marble in London's most expensive office, by Einstar Capital. Photo source

Lined in a floor-to-ceiling, gold-plated mosaic, the washroom and toilets are more reminiscent of a five-star hotel than an executive office washroom. The mirrored washbasins with integrated water, soap and hand-drying facilities also feature iconic logos designed to echo the luxurious atmosphere of Milan’s Armani Hotel. “People spend a third of their lives at work, so this is why we have fitted these premises out to a luxury-residential finish” says Enstar Capital’s Simon Lyons.

As expectations are rising, new trends are emerging within the office sector. Are superloos becoming an alternative to traditional commercial washrooms? Reminiscent of a superhero name, superloos have their own special powers. These space-saving, single units, complete with a toilet, vanity and washbasin offer a way to increase rentable space while also saving on the cost of separate male and female facilities.

What image do superloos convey of a company and how can businesses profit from this trend? Should all commercial washrooms be unisex or are conventional layouts more functional? Are superloos beginning to change our perceptions of commercial washrooms as we know them?

"Feedback is really mixed on whether people prefer a superloo or a more conventional arrangement. I do think that women in particular want loos badged male or female," says Argent’s Phil Harrison.

Can superloos help developers increase the value of an office? The potential cannot be overlooked but the question remains open for debate...

In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, it’s modern architecture. Nancy Bank-Smith

The green wall gains popularity in the workplace

Green wall inside Slack's Vancouver offices

As the green wall becomes more and more present in the workplace, we take a look at some of the most inspiring offices that feature living walls.

Last month, we discussed the benefits of green walls in your workplace. Today, we take a look at 15 offices that have used greenery to their advantage.

Whether it be a creative studio, a co-working space or a law firm, green walls are a surefire way to give your tired office a new lease of life. 

They make for great room dividers in large open plan offices, they can act as a refreshing backdrop in your meeting area or waiting room, and if you lack the space (or budget), you can always replace a poster or two with bright green, wall-mounted planters.

Don't know where to start? Here are four ways to use living walls in the workplace.

1. Uplift the reception area

Office reception area with a living wall
Fuschia pink and natural green blend in inside Microsoft's Building 44 office reception area. By  ZGF Architects
Etsy Brooklin office by Gensler
Etsy's office in Brooklyn, New York features green walls and colourful ceiling decorations. By Gensler
Large green wall in Boston office
The Sonos offices in Boston feature a large green wall in a double-height space. By IA Interior Architects
Waiting area with green wall
Eclectic waiting area with industrial elements and a lush green wall inside Maritime data analytics firm Windward's Tel Aviv office by Roy David Studio

2. Freshen up the office lobby

Large atrium with living wall
Large living wall inside Yoga clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica's office atrium in Vancouver, British Columbia. By Gustavson Wylie Architects
Insurance law firm office with living walls
Sculptural staircase and mini green walls punctuate the waiting area at insurance law firm Wotton + Kearney. By futurespace
Green wall inside Slack's Vancouver offices
Exposed brick walls, contemporary lighting and a bright living wall inside Slack's office Vancouver, British Columbia. By Leckie Studio

3. Infuse character into the breakout area

vistaprint office with a living wall
Contemporary breakout area with a green wall at Cimpress and Vistaprint. By Margulies Perruzzi Architects
Breakout area with green wall inside coworking office Hong Kong
Coworking office The Work Project in Hong Kong boasts an eye-catching green wall. By Bean Buro
Breakout area with green wall
Collaborative space with a green wall divider inside Multinational food and beverage company Mondelez International Madrid office. By Areazero 2.0
Skyscanner Budapest office
Skyscanner's Budapest office is bursting with greenery. By Madilancos Studio

4. Spruce up the common areas

breakout area with a green wall
Colourful furniture and well-lit green walls at Facebook's Tel Aviv headquarters. By Setter Architects
Green walls at BKM headquarters
Green accents add personality inside BKM headquarters by Hollander Design Group
Yandex office replete with living walls
Living walls inside tech company Yandex in Moscow. By Atrium

Green with envy: the world’s most sustainable offices

From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, sustainable office buildings around the world are raising the bar for innovation.

Three years ago, Angela Loder, then an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and a researcher in health, buildings and urban nature, highlighted three key elements in the field of sustainable buildings

  1. Materials and ventilation
  2. Daylight 
  3. Proximity to nature

It comes as no surprise, then, that the green contenders on this list have all mastered at least one, usually all three of the above. 

The Edge, Amsterdam

the-edge-amsterdam-sustainable-office

Until recently, The Edge was billed as the most sustainable office building in the world (Bloomberg's new European HQ in London recently stole the show in October 2017!) Designed by PLP Architecture. The sophisticated design, coupled with the use of innovative technologies resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score. Home to Deloitte's headquarters, the building harvests rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens. It also gives staff full control over temperature and light, both regulable via a smartphone app. The building produces its own energy through the use of 800 solar panels and its roof boasts a floor-to-floor scanner that detects when rooms are not being used, thus helping reduce electricity consumption.

Manitoba Hydro Place, Winnipeg, Canada

 HTFC Planning and design +  planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm PFS Studio

Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba Hydro Place uses passive design and natural ventilation to cement its place as one of North America's most energy-efficient office buildings. 

The building uses a geothermal system to heat and cool the interiors, triple-glazed windows to maximise daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting, and exposed radiant ceiling slabs that help maintain the temperature at a comfortable 20 degrees Celcius all year round. By applying these techniques, the building achieved 65% greater energy efficiency.

The Sun-Moon Mansion, Dezhou, China

Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA

Shaped like a sundial, the Sun-Moon Mansion houses the headquarters of the world’s largest manufacturer of solar thermal water heaters - Himin Group. With over 15,000 square meters of solar panels, the 750,000m2 building is one of the world's largest solar-powered offices.

Bank Of America, New York City

Photograph: David Sundberg / Esto

The first high rise building to get LEED Platinum certification, the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in Manhattan, is one of the most sustainable skyscrapers in the world. Complete with CO2 monitors, dry urinals and LED lighting, the building also produces 4.6 megawatts of sustainable energy in its own power station.

The Shanghai Tower

Photograph: Connie Zhou/Gensler

With its 200 wind turbines, rainwater collection and reuse system, plant-filled sky lobbies and double-skinned glass facade that allows for natural ventilation, the 121-storey Shanghai Tower achieved LEED Platinum certification in 2015.

Autodesk's Spear Tower, San Francisco

Photograph: Michael Townsend/Gensler

The 3D design software company's 21,000 square metre office in San Francisco holds a LEED platinum rating, with particular emphasis on sustainable sites, water efficiency and innovation.

With its reclaimed wood ceiling, living wall and treadmill desks in an effort to keep staff active, Autodesk's minimalist office space puts an emphasis on functionality.

BrightHR, Manchester

Photograph: Jonathan Pow

All work and no play shines through as the motto of Manchester-based BrightHR, where staff can benefit from office space hoppers, scooters, game consoles and ping-pong tables. The office also prides itself on a double bed for power naps and an 18-metre lawn with football nets located at the heart of the office.

 Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China

Completed in 2012 and designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the Pearl River Tower utilises cutting-edge technology including a radiant ceiling cooling system, solar panels, double-glazing curtain wall, demand-based ventilation air, 

SOURCE: Xinhuanet Guangdong Channel

and daylight responsive controls to claim a spot among some of the world's greenest buildings. The tower's design also helps draw wind to giant turbines that, in turn, generate clean energy.

Co-operative Group HQs, Manchester

Photograph: Christopher Thomond, via the Guardian

Just like the Shanghai Tower, the 15-storey building at One Angel Square boasts a double-layered glass facade and an open atrium designed to facilitate natural ventilation and lighting. Rated 'outstanding' by UK certification body BREEAM, it is powered by a plant oil fed system that uses rapeseed oil grown in The Co-operative's own farm.

Medibank Place, Melbourne

Photograph: Earl Carter/Hassell Architects

The design of Medibank Place was highly influenced by a thorough research on workplace design, the results of which led to a dynamic office building which promotes wellbeing working with sit-to-stand workstations. With almost 5,000 plants outside and in, 520 modular planter boxes adorning the facade, a landscaped roof garden and a 25-meter living wall, nature plays a key role in Medibank's sustainable image.

 

Is the multipurpose staircase a solution to tired offices?

Why choose a simple set of steps when you can opt for a staircase that doubles as a meeting space or breakout area?

Stairs can be ubiquitous in the workplace, particularly for bigger companies with larger floor plans and open plan layouts. They are so popular because they are built with an obvious goal in mind, and that is simply to facilitate movement from one floor to another.

Sculptural, multipurpose stair inside software company Atlassian's offices in Austin, Texas. By lauckgroup

But what if you could encourage interaction in a space as transient as the staircase? What if you could you take it up a notch by incorporating extra functions? Could a multipurpose staircase that doubles as a meeting space or a breakout area be the solution to your tired office? Could it be the way to a cleverer, more dynamic workplace?

Benches, seating areas and breakout spaces make for a great addition to a staircase, provided you have enough floorspace. The most important requirement for an efficient multipurpose staircase is to define a clear space for movement. Balustrades, a clever layout or a simple change of materials can help set boundaries.

Stair and bench space in Arnold Worldwide's Boston office. 
Staircase doubles as meeting space inside international ad agency Wieden+Kennedy's New York offices. By Work Architecture. Photo: Bruce Damonte via designboom 

Stairs can also serve multiple purposes when adorned with lush living walls, vibrant office murals or even feature walls. And since greenery and art in the workplace both have an impact on your wellbeing at the office, why not integrate them to your central staircase for everyone, including prospects, to marvel at?

Informal meeting hubs withing Soho's Living Staircase in London. By Paul Cocksedge 
TripAdvisor's Needham, Massachusetts headquarters, by Baker Design Group
Dentsu Aegis network offices in Shanghai boast a lush living walll. By PDM International
Colourful office mural inside coworking space Le Campus, Paris. By Virserius Studio

The Rio side table will lend warmth to your office waiting area

Luxurious and comfortable, the Rio side table strikes the perfect balance between corporate and homey.

Current design trends show that commercial and residential design aren't as far apart as they may seem. With 35% of our waking time spent at work, feeling at home while at the office is becoming a necessity for our wellbeing. 

Unsurprisingly, furniture can play a big part in making employees feel more at home. Instead of corporate tables and chairs, more and more offices are adopting a residential feel. Think soft seating, plush pile carpet, paintings and sculptures, anything that exudes warmth and comfort.

Office receptions, waiting areas in particular, can greatly benefit from said warmth. A careful selection of the furniture will ensure that clients and prospects are greeted with care and attention. With its textural feel and dynamic shape, the Rio side table might do just that. 

Originally designed by Charlotte Perriand for Jacques Martin's home in Rio, the Rio table was re-released by Italian furniture designer Cassina. A round side table constructed from six wedges of alternating sizes with a hole at the centre, the Rio table will lend warmth and character to your office waiting area. 

It is available in three different finishes: natural oak with a Carrara white marble top, black-stained oak with Marquiña black marble top, and natural oak with Viennese cane. 

Photos via Minima Home