'We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors and 90 per cent of the cost of a building are the occupants, yet indoor environmental quality and its impact on health and productivity are often an afterthought,' says Joseph Allen, lead author of a recent study on the link between sustainable green office environments and cognitive function, conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University. One outcome: air quality has a profound effect on the performance of workers.
Studies like this do not go unnoticed. A growing number of employers provide their staff quite literally with a breath of fresh air. As aptly noted by popular columnist Ronald Hooft in , plants are in. While the inclusion of a token plant wall or a couple of hanging baskets is a nod towards an eco-friendly workplace, some office interiors take au naturel to another level.
Staff at Ampersand's London office can brew their own tea from plants growing in the balustrade of the building's 12.5-m-tall Living Staircase, the work of and .
Photo Mark Cocksedge
Schemata Architects turn the top floor of a former factory in Sumida, Tokyo – now housing the private office of Japanese kimono artist Hiroko Takashi – into a green oasis.
Photo Shiori Kawamoto
Architects Jan Skolimowski and Maie Raud of Kamp Architektid place 5-m-tall trees - made of real tree trunks to which they added artificial branches and leaves - inside an office for Lenne, an Estonian manufacturer of children's clothing.
Photo Terje Ugandi
The future is set in Seattle, where Amazon's Biosphere Headquarters has begun to take shape. Due to open in 2017, the online heavyweight's new urban campus will consist of three gigantean greenhouse-like domes that will house, according to the rumour mills, young and mature trees. Biosphere's architects – a team from , which has offices worldwide – want to give staff the fresh-air feel to being in a park, as well as to encourage interaction and collaboration.
Go green is a major point from the five step action plan that can lead to future-proof offices. The full report on the issue can be read in St-W #108.