Rising in popularity among corporate tenants, green leases are a true real-estate opportunity for landlords, and a promise to the environment.
You might have heard of green leases and wondered if you should consider signing one. The answer is yes and the reasons why might surprise you.
What is a green lease? First introduced in the UK and Australia in 2006, green leases are an opportunity to fight climate change while also making profit. It is an energy and cost saving approach that aims to improve the environmental performance of your leased office space, thus increasing its appeal to corporate tenants.
At the start of this year, the UK commercial property market saw a record activity in the London real estate market with a total of £4.9bn worth of transactions between January and March 2017. By retrofitting your commercial property, you will not only distinguish yourself from the competition, you will also show commitment to the future and set yourself apart as a forward-thinking commercial real-estate leader.
Having environmentally sustainable features is seen as a competitive advantage.
So how can a green lease benefit you and your tenants? What are the incentives of designing, constructing and managing sustainable commercial buildings?
Your core asset is maintained in compliance with its sustainable design
As a result, the building achieves maximum rental returns and occupancy rates
Maintenance and operating costs are minimized and utility consumption is reduced
Your public image is enhanced and your asset scores better on green rankings
Waste stream diversions lead to extra savings
Landlord-tenant relationship is strengthened: green leases help provide financially beneficial incentives for both parties.
Show leadership in energy and environmental design by getting BREEAM certified: in accordance with the European Union’s Energy Efﬁciency Directive, the UK has a national energy efﬁciency target to reduce energy consumption by 18% in 2020. Contributing to the national target shows ambition and civic leadership.
Looking at the commercial real estate market last year, it's becoming clear that tenants value sustainability when looking to lease new office spaces. For tenants, green buildings are synonymous with efficient buildings – smart, forward-looking landlords can reap the benefits of this energy efficiency.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
Acoustic insulation in the form of lush green walls is a sound approach every landlord should consider.
Phone chatter, obnoxiously loud conversations in adjacent cubicles (we've all been there,) printers, photocopiers, HVAC systems... all distract and make employees less efficient. There are several ways to remedy noise levels in the workplace - sound absorption and sound masking are increasingly popular strategies, but what about living plants?
In 2015, an agricultural engineer of the University of the Basque Country conducted a research on the benefits of green walls as passive acoustic insulation for buildings. Zaloa Azkorra concluded that “the green wall showed a similar or better acoustic absorption coefficient than other common building materials, and its effects on low frequencies were of particular interest.”
Despite a rising number of studies highlighting the acoustic potential of plants, biophilic design is a resource yet to be explored by acousticians, particularly in sectors like the workplace, still in dire need of fine tuning.
NB: Biophilia refers to the innate love for the natural world, in other words, for nature and the outdoors.
How do plants regulate noise in the workplace?
To understand this, we must first brave the acoustic jargon and grasp the meaning of reverberation time.
Let's get technical for just a sentence. Reverberation time refers to the time it takes for a sound wave to die away to a level 60 decibels below its original level. And now, in English: when a source creates a sound wave in a room, what you hear is not only the sound wave spreading directly from the source, but also the sound reflecting from various surfaces around you.
Let's put this in context. The average reverberation time (now that you're an expert, we can call it RT) in an open plan office should be less than 1 second. In an enclosed office, the recommended RT is less than 0.6 seconds. In a meeting room, 0.6-0.8 seconds. What does this mean? Simply that an open plan office sporting an RT of 0.6 seconds will be significantly quieter than one with an RT of 0.9 seconds.
But how exactly can plants help reduce reverberation time, and therefore noise levels, in your office?
When sound hits a masonry wall, it bounces off the rigid surface and back to its source, like a solitary tennis ball between a racket and the wall. In contrast, when a sound wave hits a plant, the flexible surface will vibrate and transform sound waves into other kinds of energy. This is the same principle behind acoustic panels that absorb sound by converting sound energy into heatwaves.
There is a clear correlation between the way sound behaves and the surfaces around it. Think of a home with a carpet versus a home with solid floors. Usually, a carpeted room will prevent the sound from bouncing all over and creating echoes. Much like a carpet, plants and shrubbery are naturally uneven - covering surface areas with greenery will help accomplish the same feat. Think vines on walls, lawns, green walls, moss walls, etc.
How to use plants to reduce noise?
Rough bark and leafy plants are particularly effective but for maximum acoustic potential, you should also consider number of plants, location, size and surface area.
Larger planters contain more compost and provide more space for greenery. Combined, these two have a significant impact on noise reduction. As a result, your office benefits from better acoustics, and cleaner air. It's a win-win.
Tip: For better acoustics, arrange your planters throughout the space as opposed to clustering them. It's all about that surface area - the more spread out your plants are, the more opportunites there are for sound diffusion.
Focus on corners, edges and walls
Along the same principle, plants placed in the periphery of your office - corners, edges, walls - are more likely to reflect sound than plants placed in the middle.
Replace partitions with plant screens
Offices are inherently loud - open plan offices even more so. Oftentimes, this means partitions or rows of filing cabinets. What if you could use plants instead? Effective in reducing noise, and more attractive than your average office partition, plant screens are a great alternative.
If your tenants are reluctant to lose the filing cabinets, these and other surfaces can also be used to place small bushy plants in narrow containers.
Biophilic design guidelines for good acoustics
If utilised strategically, biophilic design can drastically improve acoustics in the office and its common areas.
There are few studies on the relationship between plants, architecture and acoustics. In a study performed by P. Costa of the South Bank University in London (1995,) Costa tested several single potted plants and combinations of plants in various areas in a room. His conclusions amount to a certain number of guidelines covered above.
If you accidentally skipped to this last paragraph, here's a summary:
Plants need to be large and healthy
Plants should preferably be leafy
Arrangements with a minimum of three plants seem more efficient than single plants
Spread out arrangements are better than a concentrated few plants.
Placing plants alongside walls has a greater impact on acoustics than if they're placed in the middle of a room
Somewhere between cosy and sustainable, hygge at work can be fostered by office landlords as early in the process as a Cat A fit out.
What is hygge?
For all we know, you may have lived in a cave for the past year and missed out on the ‘hygge’ craze. That’s okay, welcome to 2019. Let’s fill you in real quick. First introduced by the Danes, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) can be translated as a blend of “cosiness”, “comfort” and “contentment” all at once. Mindfulness meets carpe diem – hygge is gentle a reminder to slow down and savour the little things, but also a quest for health and wellbeing. It is about a sustainable way of being. And with over 2.5m #hygge Instagram posts shared this year, the popularity of hygge in the U.K. is everything but a coincidence.
Hygge at work
Initially, the hygge concept belonged to the home. Think crackling fire, woollen throws, a steaming cup of tea, sitting in harmony amidst a rustic Scandinavian interior. Although it may have started as a response to the long and cold Danish winters, hygge doesn’t need cold weather to thrive, though. Nor does it require warm blankets, for it is not material. It is a state of mind.
Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things
In late 2016, “hygge” was shortlisted as the Oxford word of the year — proof that the Danish definition of happiness has well percolated Western culture, and, incidentally, transcended the home to cosy up with the workplace.
It may seem contradictory at first — how can an office be cosy and relaxing if employees are to remain productive and efficient? It is doubtful that health and safety regulations will ever include a clause for aromatherapy candles and fireplaces at the office. There is, however, a place for hygge at work, and the journey to wellbeing in the workplace starts earlier in the process than you might think.
A resource for employers and landlords alike
The hygge craze may have already entered the workplace scene, but its full potential remains an untapped resource for landlords and property developers who like to think outside the box while staying on trend. While several how-to resources exist to encourage employers and employees to embrace hygge in the workplace, very little has been said to foster hygge from the very beginning of the office design cycle.
Indeed, the comforting health-imbued influence of hygge can be brought into the office well before the hunt for tenants begins. It may even help. So how can landlords and property agents make the workplace hygge-ready at the stage of a Cat A office fit out, while still offering a flexible environment ready for personnalisation?
How can the Danish state of mind be fostered in a Cat A fit out?
Think light and warmth
While flexibility and a “blank canvas” look are key in Cat A fit outs, knowing your audience can often help you stand out. And with wellbeing in the workplace being in the forefront of office trends, you might want to take a stand and position yourself as an advocate of wellbeing, or hygge at work, from the get-go.
Needless to say, this should be done in subtle ways. Think warm textures, wooden flooring. energy-saving lighting, sustainably sourced materials that will appeal to the green customer. Location and natural lighting are also worth taking into consideration.
Tap into the cycle-to-work scheme
End-of-trip facilities are becoming more and more important to the modern-day tenant. Very much in line with the Danish reminder to live healthily, cycling is a crucial part of the London commute. And although the numbers remain static, reports show that more commuters would cycle to work if they were provided with adequate end-of-trip facilities.
Incorporating bike storage, locker rooms and shower facilities in the common area of the office building will not only hygge-up the workplace, it will also attract tenants willing to pay higher rent for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Pave the way for hyggelig common areas
Work-life balance is key to Danish culture and an essential element to hygge. While employers can promote a more relaxed company culture by offering wellness incentives and creating socialising spaces, landlords can pave the way for a hyggelig office by focusing on the common areas of said workplace.
Anyone who has ever worked in an office will know – most interactions happen in shared spaces. In other words, landlords who go above and beyond to cater to those shared spaces show a clear understanding of the Millennials’ need for interaction and collaboration. If office reception areas, lift lobbies and washrooms all reflect this understanding at the early stage of a Cat A fit out, offices may well command higher rent and landlords will find it easier to attract (and retain) tenants.
Wellbeing is becoming a buzzword in the workplace industry, and with reason – it is an essential component of the modern office and a real focus point for most businesses in 2019!
The workplace is not always a well-oiled machine, but studies have shown a clear correlation between wellbeing in the workplace and increased productivity. In other words, the way to a company’s success is a happy office.
Now, this is all well and good for business owners looking to boost profits, but what about landlords and property managers? Do the cogs start turning even before the lease is signed?
The answer is yes. And wellbeing in the workplace is no accident. Just a carefully constructed puzzle where everyone in the industry – from the designer, through the landlord, to the end-user – plays a role.
All it takes a pinch of modern thinking, a great deal of commitment, and about 10 elements to get right.
1. Naturally lit
You can’t always break a hole through the wall to let the sunshine in, but think about ways you can optimise your office layout so as to take maximum advantage of natural light.
Where possible, workstations should be located within 20 to 25 feet of side windows. Any further than that and daylight almost vanishes. And if your office space, or parts of it, is lacking windows, you can always opt for integrated lighting systems like Ketra to mimic natural light.
Gone are the days of the sedentary office. Flexibility is key in today’s work environment. Employees like standing desks. They like having control over the layout of their workstations.
So how can the workplace adapt to its users’ needs? Modular furniture is a place to start: breakout furniture that doubles up as an informal meeting space, portable furniture and reconfigurable systems to facilitate the process if a company changes location.
The office layout can be adaptive as well. Big hangar-like offices, for example, can benefit from mobile partition screens to be used according to the users’ needs. Demountable partitions or folding walls are the perfect way to temporarily break up the space, or open it up for a large conference.
The more flexible the office is, the easier to implement changes it is. Anticipation is the watchword of the modern office.
3. Finely tuned
Bad acoustics are a by-product of busy open-plan offices. Unsurprisingly, noise is distracting and harmful to productivity.
Beyond functionality, many decorative acoustic panels are designed with flexibility in mind: modular units, wall tiles in varying colours, shapes and sizes, and if the walls in your office are too busy, you can always opt for ceiling-mounted baffles a freestanding unit to double up as a divider.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a good office branding is the opportunity to tell your story.
But strong branding can also make a real difference to a company’s image. It is the face of a business. It makes it recognisable to clients and employees. And it boosts wellbeing in the workplace by making for an inspiring work environment where employees feel an emotional connection with their surroundings.
So much more than slapping a logo on a wall, strong office branding should reflect the corporate culture of the company and portray its values and identity.
A well-thought-out branding strategy also helps organisations stand out from the crowd and, if used in key spaces like the reception area, it can help make a great first impression upon clients and prospects.
5. Close to nature
Wellbeing in the workplace would hardly exist without the fresh use of greenery. Being close to nature has proven to have a positive impact on our mood, and with 35% of our total waking hours spent at work, a positive mindset sure is important.
So, what can you do to add greenery to your office? A simple living wall in the workplace can improve air quality and acoustic levels as well as promote a sustainable image that will speak to your green customer. If a living wall sounds too big an investment, evenly spread-out planters will help too.
Another way to bring the office closer to nature is by growing vegetables in the breakout area. Outlandish as it may seem, innovative products like Herbert make this very possible and effective.
From wind turbines and CO2 monitors to foam flushing toilets and treadmill desks, office buildings around the world are raising the bar for sustainability and innovation.
Billed as the most sustainable office building in the world – a good standard to match, we thought – The Edge (pictured below) boasts a sophisticated design which, coupled with the use of innovative technologies, resulted in an astonishing 98.36% BREEAM score.
Home to Deloitte’s headquarters, the office 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.
What’s more, The Edge also 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.
If you hadn’t guessed it, sustainably viable offices are not only good for morale, they’re also good for business. Oh, and the environment, too.
We’ve talked about the importance of bringing the outside in. We’ve also seen how sustainable office design contributes to the general wellbeing of employees. But a happy office goes beyond green and eco-friendly – it must also promote a healthy way of working.
Developers can make a big impact here; it all starts with the relevant facilities. How about a gym at the office? If you include a gym, you will have to include showers. And locker rooms. And what about the increasing number of workers who cycle to work every day? They might need bike storage facilities indoors.
Smaller offices could negotiate memberships with local gyms or personal trainers. They can also join forces with other companies to chase a better deal with a larger fitness supplier.
The modern office needs technology to thrive. This can translate in the use of automation systems that allow users to control lighting, HVAC and even outdoor shutters for optimum lighting conditions.
High technology also shines through the integration of personalised lighting systems that challenge the one-light-for-all principle. In this instance, employees can control the overhead lighting in their immediate environment. All they would need for this is, you guessed it, a smartphone.
In large offices, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be gathered through the use of tiny devices called beacons, and shared with the lighting department to help you run a ‘greener’ office.
For everyone’s comfort, office furniture must be wired too. Plug-and-play workstations are trending in offices with limited space. Meeting rooms are equipped with built-in outlets. You get the gist.
After all, millenials don’t have time to run out of power!
9. Filled with art
Art is a conversation starter. Made to engage with those who notice it, it is an intellectual asset that fosters interaction and critical thinking.
According to a 2013 research by the British Council for Offices, 61% of workers agree that artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively.
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.
More and more concerned with wellbeing in the workplace, companies are incorporating ‘fun’ in the office. Game rooms, ping pong tables and slides in lieu of stairs are no strangers to the work environment as forward-looking offices are slowly turning into carefully balanced playgrounds.
Unsurprisingly, breakout areas are also a key part of the fun. More than a simple room where staff can take five, breakout spaces are becoming fully integrated little hubs designed to foster creativity and collaboration while offering a space away from the screen. From relaxed, shared workspaces to impromptu meeting points, dedicated breakout spaces can also double as scenes for catered lunches, thus allowing companies to save on venue hire. Quite a few perks for one space!
A ‘Workplace Wellbeing Special’ would be incomplete without the mention or two about the future. While catering to the employees’ present needs, a successful office space must also be able to anticipate their future needs. This means dynamic space planning, leaving room to grow and embrace change.
Embedding flexibility in the workspace is key. As previously mentioned, this can refer to adaptive furniture but it is also a reminder that people move too. And they should be encouraged to work in different settings.
Landlords looking to up the value of their commercial properties should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing an eco-friendly carpet for their offices.
'Eco-friendly' is on everyone's lips these days. Fierce competition among designers and manufacturers has placed carpet design in the forefront of sustainable flooring innovations. Whether it be area rugs, wall-to-wall installations or fully customizable carpet tiles, carpet manufacturers in the UK are putting an emphasis on recycling and natural materials with limited environmental impact, and the beneficiaries of this green endeavour don't stop at the planet.
Landlords and property agents looking to up the value of their commercial properties and attract carbon-conscious tenants should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing a carpet for their offices.
What to look for in an eco-friendly carpet?
The most environmentally friendly carpets are made from natural, renewable fibres; this includes organic wool and cotton, jute, bamboo, sisal, seagrass and coir. That being said, looking at the 'made of' list doesn't guarantee a 100% eco-friendly carpet. Indeed, some carpets have been treated with insect and flame repellents that will cause some of the worst (dangerously invisible) off-gassings.
These off-gassings usually come from the carpet backing, so be sure to look for backings that have been sewn or glued using non-toxic adhesives low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) Some of the best carpet backings or pads are made from non-synthetic latex, camel hair felt, or untreated wool. A CRI Indoor Air Quality label is what you want.
If your carpet isn't made from sustainable materials, it can still be eco-friendly if it is recycled. Some are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles - you'll find them under the name of PET carpets, or P.E.T carpets (polyethylene terephthalate.) Some advantages to PET fibres include stain and abrasion resistance and low moisture absorption. Other rugs are made by recycling old, used carpets, provided they are in suitable condition to be recycled.
Who manufactures eco-friendly carpets?
In 1994, Interface started the first carpet tile recycling initiative. Known as ReEntry, the program now involves separating the carpet from its backing and recycling more product into new Nylon fibre. Interface is also on a 'Mission Zero' to completely eliminate the company's environmental impact by 2020.
Desso's innovative Take Back™ programme ensures that worn-out carpet tiles are recycled into new carpet products. Defying the cradle to grave model, Desso's ambitious initiative follows the Cradle to Cradle® approach pioneered by Professor Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough.
In addition to its carpet manufacturing, Desso is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by increasing its use of green electricity and covering its roof by 25,000 m2 of solar panels.
Specialised in minimising waste during its manufacturing process, Milliken focuses on the use of recycled materials in lieu of petroleum and other oil-based components. Milliken's eco-friendly carpet uses an ECONYL® nylon yarn made from equal parts post-industrial and post-consumer recycled fibres. In addition, the company uses 90% recycled polyurethane for its Comfort Plus® range of lightweight, carpet tile backing.
Forbo recycles old carpet, fishing nets and plastic bottles to manufacture innovative eco-friendly carpets such as the Coral entrance flooring collection. Forbo's Tessera tiles contain over 58% recycled content by weight, while their Westbond tiles have a minimum of 70% recycled content in their backing. Forbo's carpets are also easy to clean thanks to a system called Dry Fusion which requires less water and fewer chemicals to perform.
Recycling is one of several other factors to take into consideration when choosing the right flooring for your office. An invaluable tool in the landlord's toolbox, office flooring is an important decision.