It’s high time for you to move over to a healthier office. Why? In a recent test (published in Building and Environment, 2017) performed by American scientists, workers in certified green buildings performed 26.4% than workers in “sick” buildings. And above all, it’s said that they make more money.
The new Visionary office complex in Prague’s Holešovice district is one such innovative and healthy building. Since March, it’s been housing companies such as Accenture. So we’ve turned to Accenture to learn what it’s like to work in a green building - and in one that’s currently in the middle of acquiring LEED Platinum (Core & Shell version 3) certification, with the highest rating on the entire Central European real estate market.
Patrik Kadlec answered our questions; he works at Accenture in the position of Workplace Solutions, Life Safety & Occupation Health Coordinator.
More and more companies in our country are moving into certified buildings with efficient water and energy management, the use of eco-friendly materials, a large reduction in waste generation, and much more. What led your company to locate its headquarters in a green building like Visionary?
Our local office’s environmental strategy is based on Accenture’s global strategy, and it focuses on three basic areas: taking effective action to reduce our emissions of carbon and other harmful environmental influences, enabling sustainability for not just ourselves, but our suppliers and clients as well, and involving our staff, leaders, partners, and other stakeholders in responsible activities within our environmental strategy.
Some of our sites have ISO14001 certification, and we implement our yearly plan even for buildings that don’t have this certification. Thus when choosing an office it’s thus a natural step for us to choose the most environmentally friendly building possible.
Do you feel a difference working in a certified “healthy” building compared to an uncertified one? If so, what’s that difference?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the main difference lies in whether or not a building is certified. Actually, the majority of recently constructed buildings meet the requirements for building certification. These new buildings, most of them certified, stand out at first sight and have consideration behind them. For example heating is handled by recuperating heat acquired from the air, the toilets’ water reservoirs are more ecological, and LED lighting is also a matter of course.
In addition, automated climate control, for example, helps to keep the building’s spaces as ecological as possible; sensors regulate the CO2 level and the temperature, and warm/cold air is let in based on that. And then for example there are the automated sensors that control the lighting and turn off the lights in meeting rooms after they’ve been empty for 30 minutes, and the automated regulation that provides the optimal amount of light. That means that the lights shine less during the day than in the evening, in dependence on the amount of natural light.
Is there any certified-building element that you have available, but that people don’t use, or that’s hard to convince people to use?
I don’t think there are any of the benefits of a certified building that we leave unused, but what does tend to happen is that it’s only when things fail that we realize that those things have been making us feel better.
Also, we have a sorted-waste bin, which not everyone respects. The struggle for proper sorting is eternal. We cover this a lot within our internal communication, and a cleaning firm also helps us with sorting.
Visionary is currently awaiting an assessment from the standpoint of its influence on its occupants. If it passes this assessment, it will become the first building in the Czech Republic to have the new WELL certification. Which of this certification’s pillars (air, water, nutrition, fitness, light, comfort, or mind) do you appreciate the most?
In our situation, where most of our employees are spending a full 8 hours a day at a computer, what we appreciate the most is light - that is, sufficient natural daylight in our offices. Air quality takes a close second.
But right now in summer, isn’t the large amount of light more a curse than a blessing? Don’t you have your blinds closed nonstop?
The blinds are closed as the sun moves during the day - generally manually based on individual employees’ preferences. Sensors inside the building then evaluate this based on the amount of natural light, and they then turn on various lights with various intensities based on this.
Do you provide any premium fitness and well-being benefits for your employees? Like exercising with a trainer, yoga, meditation, etc.?
We have a group of employees who go to yoga lessons during their lunch break, and we enable them to make use of one of the meeting rooms for this. The Visionary building also provides access to an outdoor sports center and a running track on the roof. We also have a relaxation zone available, where our employees have access to e.g. a massage chair.
Do you have an overview of whether you’re saving on energy and how much?
We moved into Visionary relatively recently, and so for now we have only a general overview of our energy consumption. For the moment all signs suggest that the difference relative to a “non-green” building will truly be large. But for now we only have data available for the first quarter, and this data will not be entirely authoritative, since we moved in to Visionary gradually over time.