Office and retail fitouts are a steady stream of work for many builders and trades due to the constant churn of tenants bumping in and out. Everyone wants to put their stamp on their space, but the old days where fitouts meant just partitions and shifting the furniture are long gone. Here are five big trends changing the game.
1. Sustainable Design
Leading projects are focusing on achieving Green Star certification by targeting occupants’ comfort and wellbeing, as well as concentrating on energy-efficiency and responsible materials selection.
The Green Building Council Australia has given a total of 2,350 projects its Green Star certification. Green Star certified buildings produce 62 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than average Australian buildings and recycle an estimated 96 per cent of their construction and demolition waste.
Fitout design factors include improving air quality through appropriate ventilation; ensuring high levels of thermal, visual and acoustic comfort; and reducing occupant stress.
Credits are also earned by reducing exposure to pollutants, for example, using low-VOC paints and adhesives, or choosing formaldehyde-free engineered timber products and floor coverings.
2. Taking Wellness to the Workspace
Wellbeing measures, like 100 per cent fresh air, access to daylight, and places to retreat to, are all vital components to a workplace, according to Bradhly Le, Workplace Interiors Leader at Woods Bagot.
“The health and wellbeing of building occupants and user comfort are now a critical measure of sustainability,” explains Le.
His work as project leader on CBA’s new headquarters, Axle at South Eveleigh in Sydney, with Woods Bagot’s global workplace design leader Amanda Stanaway has been recognised as achieving world-leading results in terms of wellbeing for the 4,000 staff who work there.
Le said his practice frequently leverages off lighting as a mechanism or device to define zones within the workspace.
“A social space, a quiet concentrative space, a learning space—each has its own lighting requirements,” explains Le. “Clients now appreciate the value of a lighting strategy and its impact on the quality of the indoor environment.”
Lighting also contributes to the wellbeing goal. Le notes some workplaces use it to help regulate circadian rhythms, aligning the human body’s natural responses to light.
3. Material Longevity and Sustainability Key
Many projects now involve a “timeless sensibility to crafting a workplace interior,” Le said. The approach includes taking into consideration the longevity of materials and finishes, and the value of good design.
“Creating a highly functional workplace that is beautiful and timeless will ultimately enhance the user experience and improve an organisation’s social sustainability,” said Le.
Green Star also encourages attention to the materials lifecycle. The rating tools support and give credits to projects selecting low-impact materials, for instance, those that are reused, certified, or contain recycled content. Efficient design and materials selection also contributes towards credits for waste minimisation.
“We design workplaces that minimise waste by appreciating the quality and scale of materials, and their sourcing—concentrating on where they are from and how they have been produced,” Le said.
4. Embrace Flexibility
Open, contiguous floorplates are becoming popular because they offer the opportunity for better connections for teams, enhancing both physical access and visual connection, says Le. When paired with activity-based working, these spaces encourage and promote movement, beneficial for employee health and wellbeing.
Collaboration is also improved. Le notes that “serendipitous encounters” as people move around the office are “important for those unplanned chance meetings balanced with the need for quieter concentrative spaces.”
“A fundamental of co-working is to create an environment with opportunities for varying work styles and to connect unlikely individuals and businesses together, which fosters collaboration,” Le explained.
People are also seeking “touch down” or co-working spaces within their workplace which allow people from other offices to come and work there, anytime.
“Something we’re doing more of is to take cues from “people-first” urban design principles, in the pursuit of a local identity and a sense of place for the design,” Le said.
5. Smart Buildings Becoming New Normal
Technology is integral to an organisation’s workplace strategy. More and more clients are hiring specialist consultants to help them realise the full potential and performance of their workplace, according to Le.
“Clients are now demanding one-touch operation and wireless technologies are allowing users to work anywhere, effortlessly,” says Le. “Projects like CBA Axle at South Eveleigh employ technology to allow their people to report a fault, open a locker remotely, use Bluetooth to enter a building, or receive tokens to purchase food.”
New technologies in office fitout design are fueling a demand for smarter work environments. Many employees expect features like high-speed Wi-Fi, wireless charging, personalisation, online room booking and environmental controls.