Office design in the spirit of less waste and circular economy
40% of all waste generated in the world comes from the construction industry, which is responsible for emission of a similar percentage of all greenhouse gases. Environmental certifications that incentivise reduction of the environmental impact are mostly conducted for buildings and almost never for interiors. However, it is the finishing materials and fittings that are most frequently replaced and discarded.
This challenge was tackled by a Danish start-up, the creator of the Too Good To Go app, which saves food from being wasted, when they planned their office in Warsaw. The objective was to select, design and organise the office space to reduce waste, cause the least possible burden to the environment while at the same time providing the team with the best possible working conditions.
The design process was entrusted to the Workplace research & design studio from Warsaw. Ecophon selected and delivered sound absorbing ceilings and wall panels with lowered environmental impact. For both companies, Ecophon and Workplace architectural office, this project put into practice “Office Less Waste Design Guidelines” on which they had been cooperating beforehand under wings of Polish Green Building Council.
Less Waste design idea
Offices designed using the Less Waste idea are based on universal solutions and durable materials whose service life has already been closed or will be within the next five years. The primary choice includes products already in use and such functional and material solutions that will extend the lifecycle of the office design while causing the least possible burden to the environment.
The selection criteria are therefore: circularity (the preferred products are those already in use that can be re-used or those that can be recycled), universality, durability, low carbon footprint and... usability. Every element should have an important function.
The company rented two floors in one of the atmospheric tenement buildings in the Piękna Street in the southern part of the Warsaw city centre (Śródmieście Południowe). The choice was motivated by the unique character of this place, multiple municipal transport options and the fact that the floors rented had already been used as offices.
The functional layout
Minimum interference with the existing layout was intended in order to avoid demolitions. Workstations for 40 people were designed on 600 m2, together with a large surplus space to accommodate the company’s dynamic growth as well as cosy meeting rooms and a variety of social areas. The latter were very important from the company’s point of view because of the persons who only used to work remotely before. For this reason, the office design included kitchens with a communal table or a large room for exercise and relaxation.
Owing to the natural environment, the intention was to limit the layout elements to the minimum without compromising the employees’ wellbeing and comfort. High ceilings in the building combined with enormous windows created a unique atmosphere and let in a lot of light but also had a drawback – poor acoustics. The interiors gave a lot of aftersounds, with the sound bouncing off the hard surfaces of the walls and ceilings, magnifying the noise. It was necessary to improve the office acoustics so that the teams could collaborate effectively and talk and hear what they needed to hear.
Better acoustics with a lower environmental footprint
Shaping the office acoustics was entrusted to Ecophon due to their experiences and effective solutions offered that had a smaller impact on the environment.
The design and planned fittings of the offices were thoroughly analysed in order to determine which acoustic solutions were necessary and where, to make sure that the teams would be comfortable. The final layout and colour schemes were selected by the designers. Ecophon acoustic panels on the walls and the ceiling were effective in reducing the sound range in the open space offices and made talking in the conference rooms more comfortable.
In the spirit of less waste, the majority (about 80%) of the panels used had already been used before in other offices or came from test assemblies. What made it possible was the durability and flexibility of the acoustic systems, as well as the open-minded approach of the client and the designers. The panels were transformed: the modular tiles became free-hanging islands and large-format wall panels were divided into small squares resembling colourful post-its. Also, the carpeting, most of the furniture and even plants were given a second life.
In practice, that meant a nearly total reduction of consumption of natural resources, emission of greenhouse gases and waste generation compared to a standard office design.
The resulting comfortable space accounted for the needs of the employees and the organisation. Without unnecessary ornaments, with respect for the natural environment. The less waste idea, which is Too Good To Go’s daily mission, has fully come to life here.
Text: Magda Szubert