OUR NEW OFFICE: CHAPTER 6!
The journey to continue our sector-leading sustainability work from our new office in Parkhurst has certainly been an interesting one. Here, Marloes Reinink shares the process and the joy of being able to slowly move into our new home!7
When we bought the property, there were two structures on the site. Our vision was initially to demolish these and built one large building that would be within our sqm zoning rights. Along the way, we learnt that our zoning rights did not allow us to go beyond the footprint of the original buildings without zoning approval. As the zoning approval process can take a very long time, we decided to restart the design process.
We left the two structures, converted the main building into the main office space (with kitchen and ablutions) and designed the outbuilding at the back of the property as a multi-purpose space with a large boardroom which could also function as a yoga/exercise or chill space. We started demolition in early 2020 and, when COVID hit, there wasn’t much of the structure left; and it took a while before we were allowed to continue building the structure up again. So, how has COVID made us rethink the spaces we were building?
Early on in the specification process, we decided to pioneer a Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) structure for the roof, instead of using a concrete coffer slab. This was done to reduce the building’s embodied energy, and because it is much lighter and therefore helped to reduce the amount of strengthening and modification that the foundations required.
However, a CLT roof is quite expensive and it was a considerable cost in our budget. Lockdown hit and we were all working from home for a number of weeks. Our successful transition to remote working helped us to realise that a phased approach might work. So, we decided against constructing the CLT roof immediately. We installed the glulam timber beams for a future CLT roof, but opted a more economical roofing solution. When we eventually get the rights for a second floor, and if we need it, we will close the office for a couple of weeks and make the adjustment in the future.
Need for smaller meeting rooms/phone booths
With the move to online and remote working, the space planning allows for maximum flexibility and churn in terms of how power is supplied, and the old ablutions have been transformed into phone/meeting booths to meet the need for video conferencing.
Initially the kitchen and the ablutions were located within the main office building, and we planned a mostly open space office plan. During COVID we realised that we need smaller meeting rooms where staff can take a video call with their project teams. So, we transformed the toilet rooms and the kitchen into smaller meeting rooms, and the ablutions and kitchen moved to the multi-purpose room in the back of the building.
Working from home to the max
Solid Green has always had a “working from home” policy and staff were working from home 2 to 3 days a week. The idea with the new office was that we wanted to create an office environment for flexible working with no allocated desks/workspaces. We had 20 workstations in our old office and decided to only take 8 desks to the new office. The remainder of the desks were donated to Streetlight Schools. This was good forward thinking!
Energy Neutral Building
We always had the goal that our office would be extremely energy efficient, while still thermally comfortable. Over the December holidays, most of the things lying on site were taken away by more needy people. Then, in early January, our Distribution Board was stolen from the site. And, as if that was not enough, a week later the municipal electricity meter was also taken! We quickly installed the solar system with inverter and battery system, and we are up and running. In fact, we ran all the construction activities (including grinders) with solar power and we are now running on 100% solar in the office and are no longer connected to the municipal supply.
We researched the most sustainable flooring option for the office. Due to a height difference, this would have required putting in a raised floor system and we wanted to have a linoleum floor on top of that. Most people will pull up their nose at Linoleum as it is seen as a “hospital product”. However, the product has evolved over time and it is really a beautiful product in different finishes. And now linoleum is made from all-natural materials, including wood flour, rosins, ground limestone, powdered cork, pigments, jute and linseed oil. It really is one of the most sustainable flooring options available.
Linoleum is still our preferred flooring option, but due to COVID we had to look for a more economical option. We are currently investigating upcycling used carpet tiles (more about this in the next newsletter) as a temporary solution.
Recycling – Upcycling
During demolition, we aimed to ensure that there was limited waste going to landfill. Most of the materials, including timber and bricks, were reused or recycled somewhere. The old Oregon pine roof timbers which were cleaned up, inspected and reused as the outside decking. And the interior fitout is going to be put together from mainly recycled, reused or upcycled materials.
A renovation always takes more time than you think and never progresses according to the planned schedule, especially when it is interrupted by a global pandemic! There is still some work to be done on our dream office. The back buildings still need to be renovated and transformed, and we intend to build an attenuation pond/wetland system so that we do not have to release any stormwater into the municipal system. And, over the coming months, we are going to upgrade the landscaping, plant a veggie garden, create an outdoor seating area, and make our space comfortable with fitting and soft furnishings. That being said, we are already loving our new home and are looking forward to developing it further this year!