Tony Ip, Green Building Faculty member of the Hong Kong Green Building Council, suggests ways to create a healthy, happy and productive work environment
Some of the quickest ways to 'green' an office are also the simplest – using glass wall partitions to allow natural daylight to flood deep into an interior space, for instance, or the addition of indoor plants. The BEAM Plus Interiors assessment, part of the BEAM Plus family of building environmental assessment tools, was introduced to help designers to generate greener ideas. Covering renovations of non-domestic spaces in Hong Kong, the scheme is assessed by BEAM Society Limited (BSL) and certified by the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC).
Indoor plants not only transform and enliven a space, but also filter and enhance the quality of the air. A 2016 World Green Building Council – Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices report revealed that poor air quality can lower staff performance by up to 10 per cent, while other studies have shown that increased greenery in the office can improve staff concentration and efficiency.
Another critical factor is building materials, as these may contain dangerous chemicals and substances that can trigger respiratory disorders, neurotoxic symptoms and sick building syndrome.
Reusing existing and salvaged materials is one solution to alleviate concerns over off-gassing from new materials. At Living Studio – the renovated offices of Leigh & Orange, designed by the architectural firm, and also at the new headquarters of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) – more than half of the existing furniture from the previous office was reused. Both projects achieved a Platinum rating under BEAM Plus Interiors.
When new materials are required, preferred choices would be those accredited with environmental management systems (EMS) certifications such as ISO 14001 and the EU Eco-Management & Audit Scheme, which can guarantee adequate control of environmental impact and hazardous substance emissions.
At the new CIC headquarters, EMS-certified recycled materials were used for flooring, internal walls and doors, while locally manufactured material for the ceilings was also EMS-certified.
Green-product labels such as the HK G-PASS, initiated by the HKGBC, also ensure that architects and interior designers make the best material selection. Monetary incentives are also available to encourage developers and property owners, such as the Green Item Subsidy (GIS). This was introduced by the Urban Renewal Authority under its Common Area Repair Works Subsidy (covered by the Integrated Building Maintenance Assistance Scheme) to promote the use of green building materials. The use of certified green products earns bonus credits in the Materials & Waste Aspects of the BEAM Plus Existing Buildings assessment, another tool within the BEAM Plus family.
With the growing public awareness of health and well-being issues in the built environment, the HKGBC and BSL would work closely with the industry to bring greener living and working spaces for all. To find out more BEAM Plus Platinum and Gold projects, please visit BEAM Plus Online Exhibition.