As a firm driven by sustainability, our goal for our new office in Warsaw was to demonstrate how we can embed sustainable and circular solutions into workplace design.
So how do you embrace innovative, creative design concepts to create a welcoming, collaborative and sustainable office in a way that doesn’t break the bank?
Together with colleagues from across all disciplines and career stages, we hosted interviews and workshops to imagine a sustainable work environment that boosts collaboration. Workplace design studio provided interior design services, while Arup’s own project management talent and sustainable development specialists helped bring the concept to life.
Guided by sustainable development, we focussed on re-use, upcycling and the use of biomaterials. We brought in micro-plants and hydroponic farms, eye-friendly lighting system and a rest area, all using circular economy principles. Our new office in Warsaw creates a relaxing, inspiring workspace that brings people together, while allowing quiet spaces to recharge your batteries throughout the day.
90% of second-hand furniture
25%savings from re-use
Creativity powers circular economy
Looking for bold, future-looking ideas, we worked with pioneering start-ups such as Danish-Polish firm Mellow Designs, who developed a prototype partition wall for us made of wood board, hemp concrete and compressed seaweed. The wall was put together in under three hours and can be de-montaged in a similar time.
Simplicity is key to many circular solutions. Mosaics in the reception and library were created from leftover kitchen tiles; while carpet mosaics were created from samples laying around our interior designer’s office. Phone booths in the working areas used to be displayed in a showroom.
Thinking ‘what next?’ was the playful inspiration for selecting materials for this workplace. Sustainable and chic FORESTA acoustic panels, developed by Arup and Italian bio-design firm Mogu, made of mycelium, the vegetative tissue of fungus, were amongst the solutions we chose.
Cradle-to-cradle certified carpets made of recycled materials and without the toxic bitumen undercoat, thanks to which they can be reused, were stretched across the office. Most carpets were part of last season’s collections meaning they were immediately available, didn’t need to be transported far and allowed for savings.
The ceilings, part of the ventilation and heating systems, the server room chilling system, and toilet infrastructure were largely kept from the previous tenant, enabling 25% in savings.
Each meeting room has a CO2 sensor, which goes orange indicating when CO2 level is too high. An integrated local BMS system allows for monitoring and optimisation of the energy use, internal temperature, and air quality. Our designers will analyse the data collected by the BMS to inform fit-out design projects.
Breaking the myth that second-hand furniture may look worn-out, over 90% of furniture in the office had previous owners but looks brand new. Desk chairs from our former office got new paddings and were re-used while desk partitions were turned into acoustic panels. With ergonomics in mind, all desks have the option to work in a standing position.
Furniture from our previous office, which couldn’t be turned into new pieces, was offered for sale to staff members. Any left items were sold to our partner Zero Waste Design, a firm upcycling furniture, who will repurpose them.
Arup’s office in Warsaw demonstrates how to create a circular, sustainable built environment, which benefits people and doesn’t harm the planet. ” Paula Kirk Director
Plant-bathing in the office: hydroponics and micro-plant farm
Aromatic basil and mint grow in the hydroponic, non-soil farm in the regeneration area, available to be added to sandwiches and salads and encourage healthy eating habits. The main kitchen is home to a farm of micro-plants, nutritious greens grown from the seeds of vegetables and herbs.
Volunteer staff are now in charge of growing plants supported by a dedicated app, which provides guidance for specific plant requirements.
To prompt exercising on-the-go, we placed pull-up bars on one of the corridors and a ping-pong table close to the kitchen to inspire and post-lunch practice.
Lighting systems that please the eye
The lighting system was designed based on the research on how light affects the human eye, aiming to be as easy on the human eye as artificial light can be. It is also motion-and-presence based so the lights turn off when not needed. During the weekends and outside of working hours, the HVAC systems go into eco-mode, meaning they are switched off or working in a low-energy mode.
To maximise the use of daylight, we used light shelves, a simple architectural device to bounce natural light deeper into a building. Adjustable light shelves on the windows provide shade to users most exposed to sunlight next to the window, while reflecting light deeper inside the office to reach more desks.
The lighting system imitates daylight, which is especially important during Polish winters, when the sun sets around 3 pm.