AT Workplace Webinar: User comfort vs carbon conscious design – ADC

Watch the AT webinar, in partnership with Geberit, Interface and Oscar Acoustics, which explores the how architects and clients are rethinking the design and construction of workplaces to enhance health and wellbeing, as well as carbon efficiency.

Workplaces and working practices are changing rapidly as architects and their clients strive to not only improve environmental performance, but also the working conditions and comfort of employees. So What are the tensions between delivering carbon conscious design and ensuring user health and wellbeing? How can we balance competing environmental and social needs. And what are wider benefits for stakeholders? These questions and more were explored in this AT webinar, supported by Geberit, Interface and Oscar Acoustics.

Chaired by AT Editor Isabel Allen, the speakers comprised Julia Barfield, Founding Director of Marks Barfield Architects; Lee Thompson, Specification Sales Manager at Geberit; Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager at Interface; Nicola Gillen, IMEA Lead for Total Workplace at Cushman Wakefield; and Ben Hancock, Managing Director of Oscar Acoustics.


Speakers (from left to right) Julia Barfield, Ben Hancock, Nicola Gillen, Lee Thompson, and Becky Gordon.

Becky Gordon explained how Interface’s commitment to sustainability dates from 1994 when a customer asked the company founder Ray Anderson what he was doing for the environment. Not sure what to say, Anderson established ‘Mission Zero’, a roadmap to eliminate the company’s negative impact on the environment by 2020. The company has consistently upped its game, developing ‘ecometrics’ to track progress, and constantly seeking ways to improve the environmental impact of its products. A prime example is the backing used for its carpet tiles, where, in 2021, the company replaced a bitumen-based, petro-chemical intensive, hard-to-recycle material with CQuest Bio, a carbon negative, reusable, recyclable material that reduces the carbon impact by around a third across the entire carpet portfolio.


The carbon negative materials in Interface’s CQuestTMBioX backing, used in combination with speciality yarns and tufting processes, result in a carbon negative carpet tile. 

Julia Barfield talked about Marks Barfield Architects’ transition from sustainable design towards regenerative design, with a particular focus on The Lantern, a 17,300-square-metre mixed-use scheme in Camden that includes workspace, 17 homes, cafes, restaurants and shops. The project managed to retain 33 per cent of the primary structure of an existing building on the site though reusing carbon intensive foundations, basement and ground floor.


The Lantern on London’s Hampstead Road by Marks Barfield Architects is designed to promote wellbeing, embracing biophilic design principles with an abundance of controlled natural daylight and fresh air (ph: V.Podoleanu/MBA).

Designed to promote wellbeing, the building enjoys an abundance of natural daylight and fresh air and embraces biophilic design principles, with gardens and planting alongside office space, with a ‘forest floor’ to the atrium spilling into the reception area. Double-height pocket gardens and landscaped roof terraces provide flexible workspace and moments for informal working and reflection as well as social space. A feature stair in the atrium encourages occupiers to walk between floors, promoting chance encounters between different tenants.


Biophilic features, including double-height pocket gardens and landscaped roof terraces provide flexible workspace and moments for informal working and reflection.

Lee Thompson gave an overview of the sanitary products Geberit has developed as part of its aim of providing added value with the lowest possible energy consumption. Since 2007 the company has consistently used eco design principles for the development of its products across every aspect of the process from raw materials right through to disposal, and ensures that every new product is better than its predecessor from an ecological perspective. Energy efficiency and water consumption are subject to continuous improvement, and the company is constantly looking for ways to minimise waste and recycle where appropriate. One example is the iCon Rimfree WC, which is made from a lead-free ceramic with a coating that makes it easier to clean hence reducing the volume of cleaning products released into the waterways. Innovative flush technology directs flush water in the most effective way to clean the pan further reducing the need for cleaning, even with the partial flush.


Geberit sanitary laboratory in Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland.

Ben Hancock focussed on the role of acoustics in enhancing – or diminishing – the health and wellbeing of people in the workplace, and explained how the quality of the acoustic environment can play a key role in encouraging occupants back into the workplace. The UK office sector is under-performing in this respect and research by Oscar Acoustics found that eight out of ten professionals in the finance sector have experienced negative performance due to excess noise. Hancock explained how Oscar Acoustics’ SonaSpray range of acoustic finishes absorb noise, helping to bring a sense of calm to even the noisiest working environments.


Office with SonaSpray K-13 applied directly to the concrete slab in grey (ph: Hufton+Crow).

Finally, Nicola Gillen summarised findings from Reworking the Workplace published by the RIBA and written by lead authors Gillen and Richard Pickering plus others from across Cushman & Wakefield. A key message was that, as work and, to an extent, entertainment and fitness, become more virtual, the physical environment has a crucial role to play in terms of health, wellbeing, community cohesion and social life.


Divided into three sections: people, purpose and place, Reworking the Workplace by Nicola Gillen and Richard Pickering (RIBA Publishing) identifies emerging trends in work culture, and provides insights into innovations and ideas that will inform the workplace of tomorrow.

Gillen also emphasised the urgent need to repurpose and reuse existing building stock, pointing out that, thanks to new energy certification compliance requirements, 76 per cent of EMEA’s building stock is at risk of obsolescence by 2030 if left in its current state. She ended with a quote from Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections: “Social media can’t compensate us psychologically for what we’ve lost – social life.”

Source: Architecture Today