Sustainability as an experience

24 Feb 2022

A message from the CEO Davina Rooney.

After two years of living and working in private spaces, it is time to restitch public spaces back into our lives. We’re catching up with friends for drinks, attending sport in a live setting and some of us are heading back to our workplaces.

But what we want from those spaces has changed. Form is just as important as function as we seek out spaces that create memorable experiences, re-establish the connections we’ve craved and just feel good. 

Unsurprisingly, some of the best examples of these buildings boast Green Star ratings.

Take Microsoft’s new Australian headquarters in North Sydney, which features rock and timber-lined walls, tunnels of greenery and surfaces that shimmer like Australian beaches. 

Or Built’s new office at Sub Station No.164 in Sydney, where people breathe in air purified by a wall of moss and work under lighting attuned to circadian rhythms.

And then there’s University of Newcastle’s mass-timber Q Building, which smells like a forest and is glazed with an electro-chromic smart-glass system that automatically adjusts its tint in response to heat and glare.

These buildings bring together natural materials and biophilic design with smart technology and renewable energy to create workplaces that are, dare I say it, more like national parks than traditional offices.

These buildings are a glimpse into the future; they are the spaces that will compete with homes where dogs sleep under the desk, where house plants flourish in corners, where windows open to the fresh air and the commute takes just two seconds.

A green building – in every sense of the word – sits at the intersection of many trends.

We are seeing exponential growth in demand for workplaces that are safe and healthy. Just one large-scale McKinsey survey in 2021 found wellbeing is among the office worker’s top three priorities, alongside work-life balance and remuneration. 

Then there’s action on climate change. A recent Deloitte survey of nearly 10,000 consumers found reducing carbon emissions is now a “near-universal priority”. Another survey by human resources software company ELMO showed that 71% of Generation Z workers won’t work for a company that doesn’t address climate change.

People have also reconnected with the great outdoors and don’t want to lose that when they return to the office. Research by EY and the Property Council last year found green and open space would encourage a massive 86% of workers to return to their CBD office. The report made clear this was about more than just parks. People want healthy, sustainable workplaces.

Being in a building is a tactile experience. To run your hand along a moss-lined wall or to host your Zoom meeting from a timber-lined cocoon is to understand sustainability as an experience. 

The retail sector has been on an experiential journey for some time as it creates new value for customers in a world of bricks and clicks. The office sector faces the same challenge – to create experiences that inspire and energise. 

We think this is the year to translate best practice biophilic design into business as usual. Why? Because the stakes are sky high. As Brett Shoemaker, Director for Sustainability with the GBCA’s digital partner Microsoft, says in this month’s Green Building Voice: “The purpose of corporate space is currently undergoing the rethink of the century”. Microsoft’s 2021 workplace survey found ‘the Great Resignation’ is real, with two in five workers weighing up their options and 55% noting the work environment will play a role their decisions.

So join us for TRANSFORM, from 23-24 March, to explore the role of circular, regenerative and biophilic design in our changing world. The discussion will be unmissable, but so too will be the chance to restitch face-to-face collaboration into your workplace experience after two years of remote connection. We hope to see you there.