Our success was built on early engagement. From the off, our leadership understood the business benefits of occupying a healthy, efficient and sustainable workplace. We fed our vision into due diligence, identifying 1 New Street Square as the building with the most potential to deliver on our sustainability aspirations and create our ‘campus of the future’. We engaged the developer to effect base-build modifications – important as they only achieved BREEAM Excellent and had not considered any wellbeing principles of note; appointed a design team highly motivated to challenge the norms; and undertook extensive stakeholder consultation with our colleagues.
Innovative environmental measures included:
- Using performance-based design to prioritise energy efficiency and comfort, from creating an operational energy model to inform energy-efficient design and procurement; to building thermal, acoustic, daylight and circadian lighting models to optimise the working environment
- Installing 620 sensors to monitor environmental conditions from air quality to temperature. These link back to our Intelligent Building network and enable HVAC settings to be dynamically adjusted, maintaining an optimal balance between energy efficiency and comfort performance
- Using the Intelligent Building Management System to drive a more proactive approach to operational maintenance, improving efficiency of process and eliminating unnecessary works
- Minimising construction waste, from designing for flexibility by establishing pre-engineered zones of MEP/IT/AV services around partitions that could be readily dismantled; to using prefabricated elements to limit off-cuts
This focus on environmental design also inspired us to drive associated operational sustainability initiatives from ensuring all redundant office furniture from our vacated offices was donated or recycled; to distributing KeepCups and water bottles to every colleague to help minimise plastic pollution.
This was all excellent, however we knew a sustainable workplace needed to place equal importance on the users. It was by delivering a wellbeing agenda alongside our environmental agenda that this project became truly pioneering. Notable features included:
- Enhancing air quality by designing out sources of air pollution. We asked over 200 material, furniture and cleaning suppliers to assess their products against stringent air quality and environmental criteria before they would be considered; and worked with our Facilities provider to ensure their cleaning and maintenance regimes used low-toxicity products
- Improving mindfulness through biophilic design by installing 6,300 plants in 700 displays, 140m2 of green walls, significant use of timber and stone and providing access to nature through our 12th floor terrace
- Promoting activeness by undertaking structural alterations to the base-build to create 13 attractive, internal accommodation stairways; procuring 600 sit/stand desks; and creating a new 365-bay cycle facility and 1,100m2 gym on campus
- Encouraging nutrition and hydration by working with partners to provide healthier foods in our restaurant (serving ~75,000 meals/year); subsidised fruit; and taps that provide chilled, filtered water in vending areas.
Early Engagement. In order to achieve high levels of sustainability in projects, it is important to get the sustainability and wellbeing aspirations for the project into the brief. Not only does this remove the idea that sustainability is a ‘nice to have’ or an ‘add-on’; but also helps designers integrate sustainability and wellbeing measures in their design from the offset. This often results in a much more cost-effective way to implement sustainability & wellbeing; as well as better performance outcomes for the people that will be utilising the space. This also offers the opportunity to inform and inspire the design team on the sustainability / wellbeing outcomes the project wants to achieve and why; as well as allowing the project team to contribute ideas which may advance the aspirations further.
Creative Collaboration. Pursuing wellbeing standards means that the design team will have a broader scope of responsibility and new conversations will need to be had; which may not always be common; these vary from the furniture supply chain, catering, human resources; cleaning and maintenance operations. However in doing so the approach to design becomes a lot more holistic and the project’s ability to enhance the overall sustainability and wellbeing outcomes increases. Therefore in future projects, these stakeholders should always be considered and consulted in the design.
Driving the Industry. The industry has some catching up to do; but can more very quickly. This is two-fold from a project design team point of view as well as a manufacturer. The project team; from client through to architect and consultants need to be considering wellbeing metrics (e.g. air quality) as a core thread of their design. This may relate to the form of a building (for daylight); right through to specification of materials. However manufacturers and suppliers also need to catch up in terms of knowing what their products are made up of and where they come from. When we started the project; we were essentially asking questions that had never been asked before. Although the industry has progressed significantly in the last few years; increasingly more attention will be given in terms of sourcing of materials; as well as their impact on the indoor environment; and project teams should support manufacturers to progress along this journey.