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.

 

Cycling facilities at work: 5 factors to consider

in-office bike storage facilities

Cycling facilities at work are becoming increasingly necessary. Here are 5 factors to help landlords and developers cater for a sustainable, profitable future.

Together with company culture, office standards are changing, and with incentives like the Cycle To Work Scheme in place, tenants are now turning to office landlords and developers for cycle provision in the workplace

So, what are the factors to consider when developing a bike-friendly office? 

1. Indoor cycling facilities

in-office bike storage facilities

According to the  BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual, "cycling facilities may be located anywhere on site. However, the total route that cyclists must take to access the nearest cycle storage, cyclists' facilities and building entrances must be no greater than 500m via a safe and convenient route." 

Including cycle provision at the shell and core stages of office development, of course, much easier than retrofitting an existing office building. If, however, you fall into the second category and find yourself with restricted space for indoor cycling facilities, think about moving internal refuse stores outside the office building. This will free up some space for your much-wanted in-office bike storage. 

2. Number of cycle spaces

London areas where higher cycle parking standards apply. Source: Transport for London (TFL) 2017

The New London Plan plans aims to increase the minimum standards for cycle parking in B1 offices developments from 1 space per 90 sqm to 1 space per 75 sqm. This applies to areas with higher cycle parking standards (highlighted in red in the map above).

It goes without saying that these figures are only a minimum requirement, but let's put this into context. An office building like The Leandenhall Building, aka. The Cheesegrater, totals 56.671 m2 of office space and includes parking spaces for 400 bicycles and 129 motorcycles.  

Now, The Leadenhall Building is home to 24 companies, one of which is AON with its 500+ employees spread over 10 floors. Following the 1 space per 90 sqm. rule, it should offer 630 parking spaces; but still, compared to its City neighbours, The Cheesgrater scores considerably above average. 

“compared to five years ago, cycling provision is increasingly becoming accepted as an integral component of Grade A office specification”,

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices

Of course, not every single occupant is a cyclist, but let's turn to leading sustainability assessment method BREEAM and make predictions a little more realistic. BREEAM ‘Tra 03 Cyclist facilities’ states that landlords and developers should provide 1 bicycle parking space for every 10 occupants. 

Forward-looking companies may also want to think about opportunities for expansion, should more employees opt for a two-wheel commute in the future.

3. Lockers & storage units

office washrooms fitted with ample locker space

Providing bicycle parking is only half the battle of developing a bike-friendly office. Cycle provision also includes convenient storage units and lockers designed to help create a better working environment. 

Anyone who has ever ridden a bike through peak-time London can imagine the challenges of storing wet clothes in an office that does not have appropriate storage facilities. Together with bike parking, lockers are an advantage for tenants and can, therefore, raise the leasing potential of your office development. 

4. Showers

Taking a line from our much-loved BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual: 

Compliant cyclist facilities (showers, changing areas etc.) can be provided in shell and core areas of the building as part of the base build. Alternatively, compliance can be demonstrated where the shell and core building is designed to facilitate future installation of the compliant number and type of cyclist facilities by the tenant/owner-occupier through the provision of an appropriately sized and dedicated space in the base building, including either the installation of the appropriate services (for showers) or infrastructure to allow the future installation of the relevant services e.g. capped water supply, service or ventilation ducts, drainage etc.

Shower facilities should be located near the bike parking and ideally, profit from naturally ventilation. Direct access to the core lobby should also be provided. In order for your office development to be BREEAM-compliant, it should include one shower for every 10 cycle storage spaces. Also worth noting that any building comprising eight showers or more is considered compliant, regardless of the number of parking spaces provided.

5. Specifications

Your office can be fit for cyclists as early as the shell & core stage. There is, therefore, no requirement for office cycling facilities to be finished to a high standard. However, here are a few tips to take away with you. 

  • Keep it well-lit.
  • Use slip-resistant flooring.
  • Keep room heights equal or higher than 2.2m.