Justice for sustainable design: how to build smarter workplaces

This Wednesday Briefing looks at the best of sustainable design from a County Attorney’s new smart office building in the US desert to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Sterling Prize shortlist for 2022

Smart buildings are often characterised by building analytics, integrated systems, and automations – they are also mainly located in urban environments. But one office building in the middle of the Arizona desert aims to redefine the smart building by looking beyond integrated technologies to improve building performance, efficiency and sustainability.

The new Pinal County Attorney’s office in Florence, Arizona achieves its smart status through its rigorous design process and innovative biomimicry of design elements found in the desert. Biomimicry is not the same as bio-inspired design. It is not adding a green roof or plant wall. Instead, biomimicry replicates nature’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to create designs that affect the way the building functions to make the building more resilient to the surrounding environment.

In this case, the office – designed by DLR Group – mimicked the self-shading techniques of the saguaro cactus found in the desert to maximise light and building efficiency. The building’s ribbed metal panel skin breaks up sunlight onto shifting areas, allowing the heat to redistribute for longer periods until natural air can cool the panels. The façade system is mounted off the building to allow air to circulate and dissipate heat. Where windows are desired, the wall system angles outwards from the building and becomes a self-shading device.

‘Enhancing resilience by mimicking the design of the natural environment…’

The design vision for the building was that it should be a ‘lighthouse of justice’. Not only should the space comfortably accommodate the 144 attorneys and staff members who will work in it, but it should be a beacon of justice to the community. As such, sustainability and wellbeing were core principles of the design.

While the building holds impressive sustainability credentials from a reduced footprint and energy efficiency perspective, it also contributes to employee comfort and workplace experience. The profuse daylight extends into the building core and the natural light allows occupants to keep the lights off throughout the day.

The office is also complete with amenities such as cafes on each floor, a coffee bar, an outdoor balcony, and height-adjustable ergonomic desks at each individual workstation.

The Pinal County Attorney’s office is a prime example of meaningful, functional, and smart design that acts as a beacon of justice not just for the community but as an exemplar for smart office buildings to follow in the future.

Sustainability makes the shortlist

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced its 2022 Sterling Prize shortlist and it is unsurprising that sustainable design has made the cut. One of the six projects shortlisted is 100 Liverpool Street in London, designed by Hopkins Architects.

The project has transformed a former 1980s office building with deep floor plates into a high-quality flexible commercial building fit for the needs of a modern knowledge worker. The design retains the existing foundations and a large proportion of the original steelwork, as well as adding three new office floors with extensive terraces and rooftop gardens at upper levels.

RIBA commented: ‘It’s approach to reusing the existing building demonstrates clear strategic thinking, keeping what could be salvaged, unpicking what could not and adding what was necessary.’

Copenhagen champions wellbeing

Sustainable living and wellbeing are central to Copenhagen’s ethos. As such, it is no surprise the city is pioneering designs and policies for the future hybrid workplace. WORKTECH22 Copenhagen is returning to the Danish Architecture Centre on Tuesday 27 September and it boasts a new line-up of thought-leaders and innovative case studies from the across Scandinavia to share their learnings. Find out more about the event here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 27 July 2022.
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