Sustainable Offices - interview with Saatyesh Bhana

Saatyesh has been Argosy's sustainability project lead on projects to upgrade the sustainability of older buildings and has some interesting feedback for tenants.

Argosy are at the forefront of substantiality initiatives in New Zealand and have an ambition to deliver work environments that promote productivity and minimise the impact on the environment whilst providing better ways for people to work together.

Over the past five years Argosy have undertaken significant green upgrades of commercial office buildings that includes 15 Stout Street in Wellington, 143 Lambton Quay in Wellington and 82 Wyndham Street in Auckland.

Bringing these older buildings into the modern age has involved full replacement of services and providing end-of-trip facilities (showers, changing rooms and bike parks) to provide a premium working environment and focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability.

Saatyesh has been the sustainability project lead on these projects and has some interesting feedback for tenants.

Have you seen a change in sustainability for office buildings over the past few years? How?

Yes, there have been more certified buildings built or refurbished in New Zealand in the last five years. 

There has been a move from Design to Built ratings. What does this mean? 

Design ratings are based on a design, as we know during the building process value engineering occurs to reduce costs, normally reducing quality and scope.

The Built rating evaluates what is built and at Argosy we feel that is a true rating of the building. Ticking a box to say a building has been designed to be Green is not enough anymore. Tenants want to see some validation to know that the building has been built in a sustainable manner and will perform to provide a productive working environment. 

NabersNZ certification is becoming the real measure of energy efficiency and it’s forcing landlords to put in place procedures to ensure buildings are well managed on an ongoing basis. 

The increase of requirement for good quality end-of-trip (showers, bike parks and changing facilities), the odd shower or two in the building with a couple of bike parks in the corner of the car park does not cut the mustard. We are seeing a demand for good quality facilities that are well designed. 

At Argosy we work in partnership with our tenants to systematically measure how our buildings perform, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve energy efficiency while providing a comfortable working environment. An example is 15 Stout Street, occupied by the Ministry of Business & Innovation in Wellington. The whole building NABERSNZ rating for Stout was 5 star and with continuous measurement and improvements, is now being reassessed and is targeting a 5.5 star moving forward.

What do you think tenants do wrong when looking for new office space?

They don’t allow themselves enough time to establish the working style of the office, how much space they will need, and what facilities they need in a building. 
Tenants know they need to be sustainable but don’t know how to achieve it or the certified solutions available to them. Greenstar and NabersNZ are certifications that have minimum standards that are verified by the New Zealand Green Building Council.
Tenants need to know who their landlord is. This is a long term contract you’re entering into. Find out who the landlord is, how much experience they have, and if they are active in managing the building. 

Often tenants are comparing properties on a financial metric of $/m2 but don’t consider the real benefits. When we have the opportunity to sit in front of a tenant and explain the benefits of being in a Greenstar Certified Building or NABERSNZ the penny drops and they can make an informed decision. 

Once tenants understand that their power consumption will be less than a normal building, or the increased fresh air coming into the building will keep staff alert and increase productivity, they are interested. 

Research from the Harvard Group illustrates that lower levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds result in higher cognitive scores. Let’s face it people are the highest costs to a business, if you can boost productivity from being in a certified building why would you go to a standard building? 

Finally, the new generation of millennials are environmentally conscious, they are attracted to businesses that are in sustainable buildings. 

What benefits are your tenants finding that they didn’t expect about being in a sustainable building?

The operating costs are comparable or lower to their existing building and their electricity bill is normally lower. Staff have fewer complaints on air-conditioning and lighting. 

People are surprised on how much automation we have in the building, and how software monitors air-conditioning including Co2 levels, utility meters, access control, lighting control and heat maps. For example, we have optimised starts, on cold days, the building heating systems start earlier. 

Lighting: The lighting is softer as we have lower lighting lux levels, with low glare fittings and the design provides for an even lighting level throughout the floor. We also use daylight sensors to dim the lights around the window to save power and occupancy sensors to only operate lights when people are in the area. 

Comfort: The air-conditioning systems generally have more zones, this provides greater comfort control. 

We increase the fresh air rates to exceed the building code, reduce recycled air and this makes you feel alert and awake. 

End of trip facilities (EOT): We have put a lot of thought into the functional design of the bike parks, showers and locker rooms. Provisioning a high quality and functional facility encourages people to use it. There is no point having just one shower, you need to match the number to the size of the building.

What do you predict will happen with office space in the next few years to future improve sustainability? 

Greenstar focuses on what and how you build, while NABERSNZ focuses on the energy usage and provides you a report on energy use and the carbon footprint. Greenstar will be standard on medium to larger developments. There will be an increased focus on wellness and projects will endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint on construction and the ongoing operations. 

In Australia, Nabers is mandatory through the local government legislation and there are fines for non-compliance. NABERSNZ will become standard in New Zealand through market participation and it is a cost-effective tool to establish your carbon footprint for energy. 

The New Zealand Building Code standard is below that of Europe and overseas countries. This needs to be reviewed and standards increased. The increase in standards will allow for better insulation and construction, this in turn will provide energy efficient buildings.

Greater use of wireless technology will reduce IT cabling and allow for greater flexibility of how tenants can use their space. The flexibility will lead to activity based working environments that suit the roles people play in an organisation. 

Office space will be part of mixed use developments, with retail and residential. The buildings will become more community orientated. Landlords will focus on facilitating and providing a service beyond bricks and mortar. 

Tenants will be more involved in the ongoing performance management of a building and will be part of the cycle of 1) build, 2) review and 3) adjust, to ensure a balance of energy efficiency and tenant comfort.

What are the key messages you would like to pass to tenants looking for sustainable office space?

  • Why be in a standard building when you can be in a Greenstar Certified Building.
  • Profile your landlord and ensure they will be around, and they have the necessary experience. 
  • Work with an agent who gives you the opportunity to meet the landlord and discuss what they are doing to achieve suitability throughout the term of the lease.
  • Green does not have to cost a lot more, compared to your employees’ well-being.