The world of work is being revolutionised due to climate concerns and the new normal that has come into play as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, office environments are changing to ensure not only that where we work works for the planet, but also works for people, ensuring the health of all inhabitants, far into the future.
As inspiration for what this might look like, we explore some of the most eco-friendly office buildings from around the world.
The Edge, Amsterdam
The Edge has scored the highest ever BREEAM rating with 98.36 percent, which makes it the greenest building in the world, using 70 percent less energy than a comparable building.
Designed by London-based PLP Architecture, The Edge features a 15-storey atrium, which floods the whole building with light and cuts down on artificial lighting needs. The rest of the lighting comes courtesy of ethernet-powered LED-connected lighting, integrated with 30,000 sensors to continuously measure light, occupancy, movement, humidity, temperature and CO2 levels, allowing the system to cater to individual preferences, maximise health standards and minimise energy wastage. Temperature and brightness can even be controlled by an individual occupant’s smartphone.
There is also a rainwater harvesting system used for toilet flushing and plant irrigation, while 65,000 square feet of the rooftop and façade is covered with solar panels.
Shanghai Tower, China
The world's second tallest building at 2,073 feet, Shanghai Tower’s sustainability starts from its very façade. The building is covered by a transparent second skin which creates a buffer of captured air providing natural ventilation, alongside 270 wind turbines which power its exterior lights.
These are only two of the 43 different sustainable technologies that helped the tower to attain platinum LEED certification. Even its unique asymmetric shape is designed to improve wind resistance, while extensive landscaping over one-third of the building acts as natural cooling.
All in all, the measures taken have reduced energy consumption by 21 percent, cut its carbon footprint by around 37,000 metric tonnes per year and saved US$58 million in material costs.
Bullitt Centre, Seattle
In a mere six storeys, this building packs an eco-friendly punch. Certified as a Living Building, its rooftop solar panels are designed to generate all the power required to run the building (around 230,000 kilowatt-hours). However, in 2015, it actually achieved 150 percent as much energy as the building consumed.
Chilly Seattle winters are tackled with radiant heat from warm water circulated through tubes in the floor, while approximately 69 percent, or 128,800 gallons, of the annual rainwater runoff is collected and treated so that it can be used for potable and non-potable purposes. There is also a graywater treatment system that puts clean water back into the ground, as well as five aerobic toilet composters which treat human waste efficiently, without releasing any unpleasant odours.
Water savings is also enhanced by foam flushing toilets which use less than one cup pf water per flush, compared to 4.8 litres even in low flush toilets.
Eastgate Centre, Harare, Zimbabwe
Less is definitely more when it comes to sustainability. Why decrease the electricity used for cooling/heating when you can eliminate the need altogether? The Eastgate Centre, Zimbabwe’s largest office and retail complex, has no artificial air-conditioning or heating thanks to a concept known as biomimicry, which is to adapt natural systems for modern use.
In this case, termites were the inspiration, and traditional Zimbabwean masonry was employed to create a space with a comfortable and consistent temperature, leading to lower costs and energy needs.
The Centre’s ventilation system operates in a similar way to termite mounds, where vents allow outside air in, which is then either warmed or cooled by the building mass, depending on which is hotter, the concrete or the air. The climate-adjusted air then continuously flows through the building’s floors and offices, before exiting via chimneys at the top, ensuring both a steady supply of fresh air as well as consistent temperatures.
The two buildings of the complex are separated by a glass-fronted open space that is open to the local breezes.
Australia's first carbon-neutral office building, the Pixel building was designed to generate as all its own power and water on site.
Outside, the remarkable façade combines playfulness with functionality, composed of colourful fixed shading louvers, solar panel shades and double-glazed curtain walls that
provide shade and maximise daylight as needed, creating significant energy savings. There is also an extensive green roof and a rainwater collection system, which functions as the foundation to Pixel’s efforts at self-sustainability when it comes to water supply.
Pixel has managed to achieve a perfect 100 score under the Green Star rating system as well as a LEED platinum certificate.
Slider 3: https://bullittcenter.org/
Slider 4: https://www.arup.com/projects/eastgate