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edition 9 (244)
October 2019
Property management

Vegetating that’s good for you

Has the age of the truly green office now arrived?

Anna Korólczyk-Lewandowska

Vegetating that’s good for you
“Greenery also has a positive impact on the purity and humidity of the air, and providing good air quality is now a challenge across the urban world,” claims Beata Dziedzic of 4Nature System Wertykalni

Summer – and the lush greenery and intense colours outside – is now sadly behind us. However, there are ways to keep things summery for longer, even in the office. But you need to know how to do it...

Scientific studies all agree that greenery has a calming effect, improves concentration, reduces stress levels and even increases creativity and productivity. Added to all that, it has now become an important feature of interior design, as you can increasingly hear from investors, architects, property managers and (possibly most of all) from tenants. This year, 4Nature System Wertykalni published the results of studies carried out jointly with the Polish Green Building Council [PLGBC] and the Silesian University of Technology on the impact of plants on the well-being of office users in Poland. The research has confirmed that to be healthy, effective and happy, Polish office personnel need to be surrounded by nature in the workplace: 86 pct of respondents had a positive opinion of the effects of plants on work comfort, 92 pct would like to have plants in their surroundings, while 88 pct of employees recognised that living vegetation in the workplace is one of the factors that affect their well-being. According to Beata Dziedzic, a co-founder and the chief technical officer at 4Nature System Wertykalni, today’s challenge for business leaders is to create friendly space that supports people in their daily work along with conditions that foster collaboration and that stimulate creativity. “Vegetation influences how the brain works: it reduces tension, while the colours and textures stimulate the part of the brain responsible for creativity. Furthermore, it significantly improves the office acoustics,” explains Beata Dziedzic. “Greenery also has a positive impact on the purity and humidity of the air, and providing good air quality is now a challenge across the urban world,” she adds.

Green for managers, green for tenants

Property managers are also aware of the positive effects plants have in offices. Katarzyna Peplińska of the property and asset management department at Savills explains that greenery not only enlivens the interior and makes it appear larger, but also reduces stress and improves moods by producing oxygen. Thoughtful, well-planned greenery around and inside a building has another crucial effect: Aleksandra Adamczyk, an expert in the workplace innovation department at Colliers International, draws attention to the fact that employees searching for a new job regard the employer in a more favourable light if their office is in a green area. “This is important from the point of view of the environment and the quality of work. Developers are now trying to outdo each other in terms of recreational space designs, providing not only vegetation near buildings but also green roofs and water features,” she explains. Katarzyna Peplińska of Savills remarks that the key factors that will determine a company’s choice of an office are still its location, quality and price. “In spite of this, society’s growing environmental awareness and employers’ attitudes to providing employees with non-salaried benefits have resulted in a situation where features that improve work comfort and that have a positive impact on health, such as greenery, are becoming more and more important,” explains Katarzyna Peplińska.

The introduction of greenery to a project begins at the design stage. “Designers who are aware of these issues know how to use greenery and are incorporating it in the interior design of office projects,” remarks Beata Dziedzic of Wertykalni. “The skilful employment of plants requires a certain distribution and degree of greenery as well as locating it in space that benefits the building’s users – that is, as close to the workstations as possible. Designers very often now place greenery in relaxation areas, kitchens, conference rooms, quiet areas and meeting places. Vegetation is no longer just a decorative element of the office lobby, but is now entering open spaces. Designers naturally consider the design and functionality as important, which is why they often opt for a personalised approach,” explains the co-founder of 4Nature System Wertykalni. “The planning of greenery in Polish offices is becoming less and less random – it has to be an integral, well-thought-out part of the whole design rather than just an embellishment,” argues Ewelina Grodzicka, the well-being and sustainability team leader at HB Reavis.



A project by Ministerstwo Zieleni

Investors also going green

According to her, introducing greenery to buildings is one of the most visible aspects of biophilic design, that is, design in accordance with natural principles – “a trend we eagerly draw inspiration from at HB Reavis. Full-sized trees will even be planted on the roof terrace of our Varso Place development in Warsaw at a height of 230m. In our Forest office campus in the city we will be planting almost 400 trees and shrubs,” she reveals. Greenery in the interiors is also very important for investors, which is why they have been taking a more considered approach to this issue. “We encourage our clients to opt for well thought-out arrangements – choosing durable, easy to look after plants that effectively clean the air. These include such species as peace lilies, Chines evergrees and some types of figs and ferns,” says Ewelina Grodzicka.

Beata Dziedzic also mentions biophilic design, relating the systems that are currently most common. “Verticality – once a trend but today the standard – enables us to use free vertical space. Furthermore, system greenery, which is an adequate amount of office greenery providing a natural improvement to the indoor environmental, is also being employed,” she explains. “According to our standards, 25 plants per sqm of office space are needed to improve working conditions,” explains the co-founder of Wertykalni. “Moss walls or other kinds of vertical garden are also very eye-catching,” remarks Ewelina Godziska. “The cost of such a wall or even making a logo using moss is not negligible, but it is at least almost comparable with other good-quality building materials,” explains Katarzyna Peplińska of Savills. Both experts point out that such modern systems are virtually maintenance-free, as they do not require watering, fertilising or even access to light. However, as Beata Dziedzic of 4Nature Verticut System points out, moss walls (such as those made up of cladonia) are only decorative, basically still life installations and are no substitute for living vegetation in the long run.

Plant rental is another new trend that is helping to green-up our office space. Renting organic decorations for conferences or other events is already a fairly well-known practice on the market, but hiring plants for offices is something of a novelty. Katarzyna Jóźwiak, a landscape architect at Ministerstwo Zieleni, notes that the company she works for is currently the only one in Poland that offers the long-term rental of vegetation. “This is great for offices that don’t have a large budget to start with. We ask only for a small initial fee and then spread the remaining amount over a period of 1, 2 or 3 years,” she explains and adds: “We provide professional care services as part of the rental price, which also includes a plant warranty.”



Katarzyna Jóźwiak claims that hiring plants for the office “is great for offices that don’t have a large budget to start with.”

What can go wrong?

According to Katarzyna Jóźwiak, it is important to choose plants that can thrive with a lack of natural light and air vents. She also notes that proper care is the only way to guarantee the success of such a scheme. “With more innovative approaches emerging, it’s important to take care of the greenery design as soon as you begin drawing up the plans for the office,” explains the interior architect. “Then we have time to install the water supply and drains for the green walls and make sure there are additional sources of light,” she adds. “In my opinion, the most important challenge is ensuring that enough time and money are invested in maintaining the greenery and providing the vegetation with the right conditions,” explains Beata Dziedzic. “Automatic irrigation, proper excess water drainage and the selection of the plants are all part of eliminating most of the risks reducing the frequency and cost of care by up to 80 pct,” remarks the co-owner of 4Nature System Wertykalni. Aleksandra Adamczyk of Colliers International also sees some drawbacks to installing greenery in offices. “Green walls are a very beautiful way of displaying vegetation. Unfortunately, they also have their disadvantages – their installation is more difficult and requires the involvement of a specialist company. Some systems also need drainage and a water supply. Poor preparation of the wall surface for the installation can lead to problems with damp,” she admits.

Well-chosen and properly cared for vegetation certainly has a positive impact on employees, and in turn increases the well-being of the tenants of the office space. Hopefully we will soon be able to wave goodbye to those ferns dying in the corner of the office. Maybe most offices will start to resemble conservatories that are pleasing on the eye, ears, lungs and mind? And since abundant greenery has been proven to be conducive to work, maybe it is worth listening to the experts and turning our blank, bare office walls into vertical gardens?

Bartosz Trzop

the founder and CEO of the Trzop Architekci studio

Let the nature in

An office is a place where people spend an average of 40 hours a week, so it has to be a space that encourages not only efficiency but is also healthy to be in. Biophilic design is a response to the needs of the body and the mind. It is inspired by the idea that people have an instinctive bond with nature. As interest in restoring this contact takes off, design trends are emerging that try to do just this. Such design uses our basic need to be part of nature, and allows us to connect better with each other and the people around us. Contact with nature in the workplace restores our mental and emotional balance. It improves team performance and satisfaction, reduces stress and stimulates creativity. The use of natural light and water engages all the human senses. Whenever it is not possible to provide direct contact with nature, we have to use natural materials, textures and patterns. We have to bring nature indoors, recreating natural conditions for work. An important role is being played by such innovative systems as zone temperature control, water-efficient fittings, energy-efficient LED lighting in organic systems and in IT systems. Another key element of interiors are the acoustics which, if correctly designed, engender a sense of harmony and focus in the work space. With biophilia, design has been redefined by sustainable development principles. We are now creating spaces where people feel safe, calm and comfortable.

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