The Office was a funny TV show but the reality of office life is rarely a laughing matter.
Studies show that in a bad office environment, employees are often uninspired and prone to sickness. This has to do with everything from interior design to bad indoor environmental quality. Productivity decreases, while sick leave, energy expenses and greenhouse gas emissions increase. Something has to change!
In general, for all our buildings, we need a substantial amount of natural resources and energy to build them and, during use-phase of approximately 80-90 years, to provide heating, cooling, fresh air as well as lighting. Especially in office buildings we need nearly twice the amount of energy compared to residential buildings. This is mainly due to the fact that we have a lot of technical equipment in the offices, such as computers, printers, etc. and the artificial lighting is running almost all the time. In addition we need to cool down office buildings partly in spring, during the summer and partly in autumn and have it heated partly in spring, during the winter and partly in autumn. If we consider that we are spending more than 80% of our life time inside buildings, it becomes obvious why it is so important to understand how we can provide an indoor climate in terms of temperature, air quality, acoustic performance and lighting that positively support comfort and well-being.
For companies it is really important that employees are not getting sick because of bad indoor environmental quality at their working place. However, today?s energy prices are so low that a building owner or a company boss hardly has any economic incentive to decrease energy consumption: Investment costs in better insulation are too high, and the same applies for change from double glassed to triple glassed panes or for an investment in a photovoltaic system that would provide more environmentally friendly energy to the building. The payback time for energy savings of all those investments is too far in the future. This purely economic calculation would change if we considered saved costs for employees that cannot work due sickness or even better, if employees felt so comfortable in their offices that they would work much better and produce more valuable results!
This is the point where our project comes into play. An international and recognized team of architects, designers, engineers, and psychologists will work together to plan, build and operate an office building, meant as a demonstrator for showcasing the very best office of the future. This demonstrator building will be built on Chalmers campus in Gothenburg and is called Johanneberg Science Park stage II. In the new building, we will come up with an architecture and interior design that is adapted to the working activities of the employees, specially-fitting their needs. Due to great flexibility as an inbuilt parameter, spatial solutions will be easily adaptable if needs change. Additionally, the new building will provide an optimized indoor climate and offer a high level of comfort experience throughout a full working day, irrespective of the weather outside. With all the facts on the table, the future office will be designed based on concrete conditions unique to each workplace and location.
At the same time, this building will be used to bring many people from academia, businesses and the society together to come up with new innovations that directly can be tested on site, in the ?Smart and Sustainable Office? ? our real-life working laboratory on the Chalmers Campus. To develop innovative ideas is often a challenge, especially when you do it while involving people from various disciplines and with different backgrounds. To promote creativity and innovation, we will use different formats, of which one is the so-called process of co-creation. This is a method that has been successfully tested at many occasions, and the applicants have been involved in these activities. The HSB Living Lab on Chalmers campus has used this format e.g. to develop new types of laundry facilities. Co-creation often leads to new innovative types of products and services. In our project, we will make use of co-creation for healthier and stimulating office environments that make people working there happy.
Our Smart Sustainable Offices demonstrator building will be the first one in Sweden and be used as a blue print for other Working Labs in Europe, promoting future working life!
Professor at Product and Production Development, Design and Human Factors
Funding years 2016–2018
Area of Advance