Why sustainable office spaces matter to everyone

21 April 2021

Despite the sudden, recent increase in working from home, the office spaces we are returning to will increasingly come under review for not only their wellness and safety merits, but also their wider sustainability credentials. In a broad sense, the sustainability measures of an office or mixed-use building includes its environmental footprint; its ecological and economic impact on the surrounding natural environment and communities; and its consideration of, and ongoing contribution to, the wellness of its tenants, neighbours and visitors.

Sustainability in the built environment has long been of importance to governments, municipalities and to industry regulators, such is the significance placed on certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and WELL (International Well Building Institute). However, with sustainability becoming an increasingly mainstream, everyday concern for people, the need for office spaces to be sustainable now goes beyond industry and governmental preference. In particular, sustainable office spaces matter in ‘the war on talent’.

The World Green Building Council describes a green building – the common moniker for a building with sustainable credentials – as “a building that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts, on our climate and natural environment.” 

"For all the reasons that a building is good for the environment, it is good for its inhabitants and visitors. According to a 2016 Harvard report, employees working in green-certified buildings showed cognitive function scores 26% higher than their peers in equivalent, non-certified buildings."

The same group also had 30% fewer symptoms associated with “sick building syndrome”—such as “watering eyes; hoarseness; headaches; dry, itchy skin; dizziness; nausea; heart palpitations; miscarriages; shortness of breath; nosebleeds; chronic fatigue; mental fogginess; tremors; swelling of legs or ankles; and cancer.”

The role of the sustainable workplace in the war on talent

There has been a widely acknowledged shift in the employee-employer paradigm in the last 15-20 years, namely that employees now interview the company as much they themselves are interviewed. In respect to the workplace, employees can be better understood as ‘customers of their building’. They have a clear, positive physical and mental benefit from a fit-for-purpose workplace that they are willing to contribute to and are no longer a passive inhabitant of assigned workspace. When considering the role of a company’s environment, let’s consider the various stages someone goes through when assessing whether a company and its workplace is right for them.

First impressions

The first factor is the impression a conscientiously designed workplace gives a prospective employee or stakeholder. Does the design and management of the space impress a responsible approach and conscientiousness for the environment? If it doesn’t, all that work to attract talent is going to waste at the first hurdle, when a lack of sustainability credentials becomes visible and apparent to the prospective employee.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Even more important and wide-ranging than a good first impression is the ongoing reputation that is afforded a company based on its physical environment and associated approach to wellbeing. The wealth of information now at our fingertips means that it is easier than ever to see the pros and cons of a particular company, including their workplace and locale, before even considering the merits of a particular job with them.

"The reputation of a company in respect to its employer status, employer branding, is increasingly impacted positively and negatively by its sustainable credentials."

employer review websites, such as, have ensured that companies are being held to account over their environmental and wellness responsibilities as much as other comparative measures such as salary, vacation days and the like.

Retention, cultivation and progression

"The battle for talent is often understood only in terms of attracting talent, but the real gains are made when organisations retain, develop and nurture their people. To do that, especially in a post-COVID world, the office will need to be somewhere that adds value and is worth the commute and associated conveniences of working from home."

It needs to be socially, culturally and physically enriching both as a place of work and in its proximity to amenities and opportunities for leisure time. To provide this, the workplace must be situated in a green building and have all of the mental and physical health benefits this affords, but also be in a location that provides a community environment, and a nourishing sense of place.

A new benchmark for sustainability in the region

Aside from its culture and community-minded design, ICD Brookfield Place is the tallest and largest office building in the EMEA region to achieve the LEED Platinum rating, and in doing so is among the top 20 of the world’s largest LEED® Platinum projects. Among the building’s design and features are recycled water to feed trees and plants, high performance façade that controls solar gain and heat loss and the use of recycled and sustainably sourced materials including the timber. The overall energy consumption averages 30% less than the industry standard, and saves tenants money through a minimal ecological footprint.

But to define a building by its sustainability credentials in their strictest form would be to overlook the role it can play in encouraging awareness of and respect for the environment.

"The operations of ICD Brookfield Place from conserving energy, to managing resources and waste, to environmental initiatives encouraged among tenants, all help to create a shared mindset of environmental responsibility. When a building respects its environment, it helps and reminds its visitors to do the same."

Buildings have long been catalysts for change; and mixed-use developments like ICD Brookfield Place are now prominent among the type that companies, and communities will regularly come together in. Without this, how can we create a positive environment for co-workers and a foundation for environmentally minded community? 

In this respect, real estate has the power to not only shape the face of an urban environment or a place of work, but the world and the community places that we share with each other. If there was ever a reason to choose a destination with those credentials at its core, it must surely be this.

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