Pursuing the green mandate for corporate offices with an eco vengence is Caroline Burns, regional leader for Geyer in Asia.
Caroline Burns believes in the power of green for transforming corporate offices into powerhouses for increased productivity, costsavings and a healthier environment.
Currently the regional vice chair Asia for CoreNet Global, Burns possesses degrees in business (property) and architecture and is also currently undertaking research for a PhD in the Faculty of Business and Economics at Sydney University, examining the strategic fit between workplace, corporate strategy, brand, culture and technology within knowledge-based organisations.
She has actively contributed to the corporate real estate profession at large and has also served on various committees with CoreNet Global and previously with the Facility Management Association of Australia. To her credit, Burns has been elected as a board director for the latter, making her the first female national vice chairman in 2001.
As the Geyer regional leader for Asia, she shares her insights on the subject of sustainability for the workplace and how eco-measures such as promoting renewable energy sources, effective management and reuse of water can address the social aspects and contribute to society at large.
The wise selection of sustainable products and materials as well as proper recycling and waste minimisation she believes, can promote winning innovative designs and applications that will go a long way in promoting the green agenda.
Which country do you think has employed the most sustainable models for their offices? Why?
Different countries are at different points along their sustainability journey for many reasons and each have their own challenges, which can of course sometimes also provide the impetus for breakthroughs and innovations.
Certainly we believe that governments who set a good example through their own decisions and practices are probably better placed to encourage (the) industry to follow their lead.
There is also a degree of encouragement and incentive (financial, legal or others) often required to get a certification programme up and running. The early adopters will always exist, however, a critical mass can be expected as the broader industry benefits from lower costs and peer pressure.
China, Singapore and Australia have all taken different paths and each (country) has demonstrated a significant degree of success in their own way.
How can office buildings attain a greater measure of sustainability?
One recommendation I would have is for developers and asset managers to talk to their occupier market about what features are important for them in sustainable buildings, and to be transparent in reporting as well as sharing the benefits with their tenants.
This is important in markets where true “build-to suit” developments for a specific occupier are rare — these partnerships which are common in Australia for example, often evidence of significant innovation in sustainable integrated fit-outs.
How far from the mark do you think the world is from attaining at least a good portion of sustainability for their offices?
Please share a few examples.
Taking an example of China, whose efforts in this area obviously make a difference, the country launched its Green Building Evaluation Standard in 2006, also known as the Three Star System, which assesses buildings based on several environmental indicators, such as energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality and maintenance needs.
In 2008, only about ten building projects registered for the evaluation work. The number increased sharply in 2010 and by the end of October that year, a total of 268 building projects were labelled as green buildings.
Among them, 86 projects were awarded three stars which is the highest level.
A total of 106 (projects) were given two stars. About 300 to 500 building projects should meet the requirements of the Green Building Evaluation Standard each year in the coming three years. This is a good indication of the growing commitment to sustainable workplaces in the region.
Singapore’s BCA (Building & Construction Authority) requires all new or substantially refurbished office buildings to be Green Mark-certified and has also encouraged sustainable mixed use developments on the island. Over time, this will change the balance of total office net lettable area to a majority, which is sustainable.
What materials, methods or design approach would you advice offices of the future to adopt in their quest to be more efficient and sustainable in their use of energy?
If a fit-out or refurbishment project is seeking certification, then appropriately green labelled (by an independent body) furniture, fixtures and equipment must be used to a certain degree, depending on the certification scheme.
The characteristics of these (requirements) may include recycled content, material sourcing (for example plantation timber), recyclability, VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) content, etc.Big ticket items such as floor finishes, paint, lighting, workstations and task chairs all tend to be critical. Low flow taps are important in pantry and breakout spaces.
Which office building (anywhere in the world) do you think is the best example of a sustainable office building that should be emulated?
There are many excellent examples in Singapore of new office developments such as Asia Square and Ocean Financial Centre which in different ways have been able to achieve the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Green Mark levels of certification through innovations that add value to both asset manager and tenants.