Yahoo7 is a premium media and publishing company which reaches nearly half the Australian population every month across a range of websites and apps including Yahoo7 Mail, 7News, 7sport and Yahoo7 Be. Gensler was engaged in 2017 for the interior design of Yahoo7’s new 2,000 sqm workplace at the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Sydney.
Gensler, who have been a member of the Green Building Council of Australia since 2014, was the appointed architect on the project as well as the Green Star coordinator responsible for the certification process from the earliest sustainability strategy discussions during the concept stage until the end of construction and close-out.
The design team conducted a pre-occupancy survey and facilitated workplace strategy workshops with client stakeholders at the outset of the project to get a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities specific to different departmental teams and to build consensus around the desired outcomes and guiding principles for the design of the new workplace. What emerged was an overarching goal to create a more open work environment that would drive more effective sharing of space, tools and ideas.
The relocation needed to enable Yahoo7 to use their space more efficiently than they had in the past whilst also enabling a transformation of the company’s workplace culture from one in which teams were quite dispersed and siloed into one in which they were more connected, agile and collaborative.
And, importantly, in alignment with the organisational goals, the relocation presented the opportunity to implement sustainability strategies within the workplace, with Green Star as the certification process.
Aiming higher and achieving a Green Star first in NSW
The initial client brief stipulated that the project was to achieve 4 Star Green Star certification, as required by the lease since the building Yahoo7 would be occupying was certified 4 Star Green Star Interiors rating. The design team aimed higher and achieved a 5 Star Green Star Interiors certification.
Yahoo7 is, in fact, the first project in New South Wales to achieve a 5 Star rating under Green Star – Interiors v1.1, equivalent to ‘Australian Excellence’ under Green Star.
To exceed the target, the team’s sustainability strategy covered all eight categories, going above and beyond the requirements and achieving five additional points in the Innovation category.
In the Management category, Gensler engaged the client and key project team members in the communication of the principles of sustainable design and the establishment of sustainability strategies for incorporation into the project from day one.
With regard to Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ), acoustic, thermal and lighting comfort were the focus so as to provide the best working environment possible for the staff. In addition, the project achieved credit for Innovation by improving on Green Star benchmarks and providing 100% of the paint within the compliance criteria using ultra-low VOC paint thereby minimising indoor pollutants.
In the Land Use & Ecology, Energy and Transport categories, the project benefitted from having a common goal with the base building management team, having already achieved a 4 Star Green Star certification on the base building.
The design team invested a lot of time researching potential materials in the local market for use on the project from a sustainability perspective, focusing on finishes, furniture, and materials that have been reviewed and certified by a third party for verification. The team also worked with the client on the strategic reuse of a lot of their existing furniture and on keeping base building finishes, where possible, to minimise impact on the environment.
All new appliances and fixtures were selected carefully to minimise the annual potable Water consumption.
Lighting is designed to minimise light pollution with automatically controlled systems and perimeter blinds.
Finally, the project was awarded Innovation points for improving on Green Star benchmarks, for including contractor education, and for occupant engagement by conducting pre- and post-occupancy surveys.
Efficiency without sacrificing effectiveness
Nermine Zahran, GSAP, LEED AP, who served as Gensler’s Project Architect and Sustainability Director on the project, is proud of the results achieved on Yahoo7, not only that the higher 5 Star rating exceeded expectations, but also that the space reflects a thoughtful approach to the employee experience.
“We used a palette of cost-effective, highly sustainable materials that increase energy efficiency and minimise environmental impact, but at the same time, we also wanted to be very conscientious of the health and wellbeing of Yahoo7’s people, and I think that comes through in the design.”
“Our goal was to create a very flexible environment that will allow Yahoo7’s people to perform at their best every day,” says Anya McClelland, Gensler’s lead designer on the project. “So in that sense, our sustainability goals were two-fold, with a focus on both long-term building performance as well as a focus on long-term people performance.”
“At Gensler, our goal is always to put the human experience at the center of everything we do,” adds Zahran, “and achieving sustainability ratings like Green Star is to me as much about designing for human health and well-being as it is about considering the health and well-being of the planet. The two go hand-in-hand.”
Given the building’s long floorplate, the design team approached the planning of the space by incorporating collaboration neighbourhoods, each defined by a distinctly vibrant colour signature rather than physical walls and each featuring a mix of flexible seating, writable surfaces, and integrated AV to allow a natural flow of team interaction and co-creation throughout the day. The layout further ensures that an abundance of natural light reaches all corners of the space, and touches of greenery add a sense of freshness and calm. The result is a workplace that is informal yet impactful, empowering the company’s diverse, driven people to create, collaborate and innovate in new ways.