Designing Sustainable Office Space

May 11, 2015
Posted by in Design Principles & Certifications, Non Residential Property | Tagged , , , , , |

designing sus office space

Shell and core vs Cat A office fit out? Are there are any alternatives that are more sustainable? Matt Wilderspin, Head of Project Management explores current trends in office space design and fit out and how these could improve environmental impacts.

Over the past 20 years of my career, I have seen the trend of shell and core vs Cat A office space shift 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?

When a landlord installs a raised floor, suspended ceilings and mechanical installations, is this efficient if the tenant then removes or changes them? When I first started project managing office fit outs, shell and core was the new trend but we didn’t much consider sustainable design. Now we do and sustainability is increasingly important to all of us, owners, developers and occupiers alike. Should we be moving towards a more collaborative, and less wasteful, approach between the landlord and tenant for office fit out? This makes sense not only from a sustainability point of view but from a cost reduction perspective for both landlord and tenant.

When the tenant removes the ceiling to create an open/industrial feel or the “middle spaces” in the new workplace trends, what happens to the redundant ceiling tiles? 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, reduces double handling and reduces the carbon footprint of companies, including the contractor, sub-contractors, suppliers and manufacturers. It also allows the tenant’s team more flexibility in their office space design; creating a win win situation – flexible design, cost savings and sustainability benefits at no extra cost.

This is all good news, but what happens when the tenant’s lease expires and it has to reinstate the premises to an open plan Category A office specification? Simon Brown discusses dilapidations in his article, however what can be done to reduce the waste of stripping out the previous tenant’s fit out to reinstate a ceiling and raised floor that will then be stripped out and changed by the next tenant? We need to find a way to be more sustainable rather than throwing everything in the skip at the end of the lease.

Rather than reinstating, we could look to designing possible re-use of the fit out at the start which would save money for both the landlord and tenant. Designing flexibility and longevity of the fit out components allows the second tenant to reuse the design in full or part. This will require a different way of thinking in the design and specification stages; however with the change in workspace design trends to create more open plan and collaborative spaces, we could look to recycle key elements of the interior office fit out. 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?

Matt Wilderspin
Executive Director, CBRE Building Consultancy team
T: +44 20 7182 3725