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.