The Smart Sustainable Office project has developed a suite of tools, as well as Europe’s first sustainable assessment methodology, for building sustainable new offices or renovating existing ones.
Offices account for 8 per cent of our overall building stock, and we spend up to 90,000 hours of our lives in them. But existing sustainable building standards place little emphasis on the behaviour and wellbeing of office users, and are based instead on conventional cost-benefit analysis. Making the case for sustainability, either through renovation or as part of the construction process, requires integrating building users into the design process, and taking bold new approaches that go beyond energy cost savings.
The Smart and Sustainable Office (SSO) project, run by EIT Climate-KIC partners Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Valencian Institute of Building and University of Valencia in Spain, has developed empirically robust, region-specific models and methodologies that demonstrate patterns and interactions between office design, building systems, indoor comfort, user behaviour and employee productivity. At its core is a comprehensive database – Europe’s first – that offers insights from Spanish and Swedish workspace buildings and, crucially, shows how they are used.
Studies indicate that smart and sustainable offices may positively affect their users’ health and productivity, which can in turn boost organisations’ overall performance thanks to less sick leave, higher engagement, greater job satisfaction and lower staff turnover.
The team has begun to formalise its research, creating a suite of tools and services that can be used by stakeholders across the building sector from real estate owners to architects and office furniture suppliers. It has also developed an Office Planning Tool, as well as guidelines for creating sustainable offices in Europe’s different climate zones. The SSO office building certification, currently in development, will encompass accessibility, indoor environmental comfort, design, space quality and environmental efficiency.
EIT Climate-KIC’s involvement
EIT Climate-KIC has played a crucial part in helping consolidate the research, both with funding and by leveraging its network of partners. “Being able to take on post-docs and PhD researchers was fundamental. As a result, we’ve developed a rigorous scientific model and methodology for advanced indoor environmental quality, with multi-disciplinary experts from all around the world,” says Holger Wallbaum, professor of sustainable building, civil and environmental engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.
EIT Climate-KIC’s support and network has also enabled the SSO team to explore strategic avenues for the certification system, introducing global real estate partners like Knight Frank.