Edge Grand Central: is this Germany’s most innovative office building?

As organisations look for innovation in urban workplace projects to address the challenges of the pandemic, one of the Urban Land Institute’s European winners in Berlin reflects the latest thinking

As we move towards a more hybrid work environment, the development of new and innovative urban spaces has become a top priority.

A good place to look for outliers in the field which point to things to come is the Urban Land Institute (ULI). With more than 45,000 members worldwide, ULI has a remit is to help ‘shape the future of the built environment for transformative impact in communities worldwide’. It recognises exemplary urban development projects – from office space to community centres – through the ULI Europe Awards for Excellence.

Innovative building

This year ,the ULI awards focused on projects that successfully adapted to the challenges posed by the global pandemic. Most eye-catching among the best -practice winners is Edge Grand Central in Berlin, which claims to be the most innovative office building in Germany.

Designed by Bolwin Wulf Architekten around Edge Technologies’ three principles of clever spatial, functional and technical design, the building aims to deliver a dynamic working environment which focuses on the workforce, prioritising their wellbeing and happiness.

To do this, Edge has combined the expertise of architects, health professionals and neuroscientists. Not only does it successfully create a space which prioritises physical and mental wellbeing, but it is also personalised and app driven.

This people-focused approach is data driven and achieved by using smart technology – all connected via a state-of-the-art IP backbone. A total of 3,500 sensors collect granular data on occupancy, temperature and light levels. The data is stored and analysed in the building’s own cloud-based management system, which claims to be intuitive and forever learning.

Seamless connectivity

The system facilitates seamless connectivity – everyone is connected to everything. This allows Edge Grand Central to provide its office workers with a healthy environment; air quality, light and temperature are all carefully regulated. Working lives are made easier by smart systems that ease room booking and colleague finding. This ultimately makes the environment more efficient. The building performance and energy-efficiency is maximised, thus reducing its carbon footprint and making it more sustainable.

Location is key too. Edge Grand Central is located adjacent to Berlin Hauptbahnhof – a major transport hub of Berlin. This physical connectivity in turn leads to reduced commuting. At a time when empty offices are hugely costly, leaseholders are likely to remain longer in a building that aims to learn and improve the longer they remain as tenants.

‘Flexible, personalised spaces which tune into the needs of the worker will win through…’

Winning this award, Edge Grand Central underlines the importance of connectivity and sustainability. In post Covid-19 world, employers are going to need to keep their employees safe and happy to entice them back to the office and developers are going to need to facilitate this. Flexible, personalised spaces which tune into the needs of the worker will win through.

Other winners in the 2021 ULI Europe Awards for Excellence included the LX Factory in Lisbon, an ambitious and creative project that has transformed a former industrial site into an anchor scheme for Portugal’s capital city, and Wokingham’s town-centre regeneration project in the UK, a mixed-use project to create a thriving destination for commerce and urban living.

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