Designing Sustainable Office Space

By Matt Wilderspin Head of Project Management, at CBRE
Jun 9, 2015 9:05 AM ET

Originally posted on CBRE's The Green Perspective

In the last 20 years, the trend of shell and core vs Category A office space has shifted one way then the other. Is the latest shift towards shell and core or shell and floor (including the installation of a raised floor) a returning trend or a shift driven by changing attitudes towards waste and sustainability? Years ago, shell and core design was the ‘new age’ trend and no real consideration was made to sustainable design. Today, every project undertaken places consideration to sustainability efforts. So there has been a marked shift for all stakeholders – owners, developers and occupiers alike – to move towards a more collaborative, and less wasteful approach. This makes the building sustainable and reduces costs for both landlord and tenant. Sustainability transcends every design aspect when project planning office space. Waste is a pre-eminent consideration. For example, if a tenant removes the ceiling to create an open ‘social space’ feel, where do the redundant ceiling tiles end up? In addition, waste isn’t just the tiles being thrown away, but the carbon footprint of their manufacture and delivery in the first place. Leaving the landlord’s base build as shell and floor reduces this waste and ultimately reduces the carbon footprint for the companies involved - contractor, sub-contractors, suppliers and manufacturers - as it negates ‘doubling handling’. It also creates added value for the tenants as their office space has a more dynamic and flexible design, alongside up-to-date sustainability features which aids employee engagement and will reduce costs over time. While this is good news, there are occasions when a tenant’s lease expires and it has to  reinstate Category A office space. This is clearly not a sustainable approach given the waste involved when stripping out and starting over in terms of an office re-fit. It is evident there needs to be a better ‘green’ strategy in place to avoid throwing everything into a skip at the end of the lease. One option could be rather than reinstating, there may be a way to design possible re-use of the fit out from the start. This saves money and time for both the landlord and the tenant. Designing flexible and long-lasting fit out components allows the second tenant to reuse the design in full or part. This will require a different way of thinking and planning in the design and specification stages. However, with the ongoing progressive developments with workspace design to create more open plan and collaborative spaces, this could go ‘hand-in-hand’ in the recycling stages. Not only will this reduce negative environmental impacts, but it saves money and time! Surely achieving sustainability at low cost is a win-win position.

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