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Project Overview

Year: 2023

Type: Carbon Zero Office For Grenke

Size: 262sqm

This project is not about being futuristic, rather, it is about how we can prepare ourselves for the future and how we can move workplace design into the future.

Since COVID-19, workplaces have fundamentally changed, with many staff working from home part-time or even full-time. This poses challenges to workplace community culture, company culture, and philosophy. Humans are becoming more secluded and ‘alone’, our collective mental well-being becomes a bigger problem in society every day, and isolation is one of the issues contributing to that. AI will be taking over many jobs in the future, too, so offices will constantly need to adjust in size, grow and shrink, adjust, and repeat. Climate change is real, it’s here and needs to be responded to now if we want to be able to work and live in the future at all.

These are some of the main challenges that we are facing and that we have been discussing in our team when considering workplace design into the future. The briefing for this project fell right into this category.

Project brief

The project brief was to create a sustainable, and employee-friendly office space that promotes well-being, creativity, and collaboration. By integrating recycled materials, biophilic elements, and energy-efficient solutions, we achieved an office environment that not only reduces its environmental impact but also provides a vibrant and inviting workspace for employees.

Grenke is part of an international finance company that helps small, medium, and large businesses in their daily cash flow, e.g. by financing office equipment for them. With a team of seven in the Melbourne office when we started this project, they knew they would grow to about double the size over the next year, and wanted to cater for up to about three times that size.

While the briefing asked for approx 14 workstations, there was also a requirement to allow for further growth considering typical office attendance rates and to enable meetings with the full team of up to around 22 within the space.

The briefing called for personal spaces, that are inspiring and beautiful, that would provide good indoor air quality and connection to nature, spaces that would make both staff and visitors welcome. We also suggested and discussed advantages of non-traditional meeting spaces vs formal boardroom meetings, with both being able to be used with both staff and customers, in a more relaxed setting.

Design Details

This fit-out has been designed to respond to the main issues of a future workspace. It is flexible, to enable adjusting to different team sizes, different spaces, and even to different buildings. It is designed to target being carbon neutral/negative, in order to leave a positive footprint rather than a negative one. It is designed to create a warm and welcoming environment, an environment where people choose to come in to work as they can see and feel the benefits. An environment that encourages team spirit and community culture, an environment that benefits both the employer and the employee at the same time.

Sustainability and flexibility are at the core of this project. Existing furniture has been re-used where possible and re-purposed or passed on elsewhere. By growing the existing team from seven to 15 workspaces, we needed to come up with a solution that would enable re-use of equipment while creating a coherent new design in the new company quarters. Existing desktops have been replaced with new desktops made from recycled timber, existing desk frames have been re-used to support those, and new flexible stand-up/sit-down desks with added health benefits have been sourced for the new desks. Visually, all tie in together beautifully via the recycled timber , simplicity and natural finishes.

Team clusters are separated by flexible modular storage/planter boxes on castors, allowing full flexibility and re-arrangement within the space or into a new space later. Office partitions and fixtures have been reduced to a bare minimum (a private CEO office, a boardroom, a quiet booth and a kitchen), allowing full flexibility within the majority of the space.

Considering that fit-outs last on average 5-7 years, we felt it particularly important to provide flexibility to increase this lifespan, so that most items can be re-arranged, re-used or re-purposed as required. The many plants dominate the office visually, and together with the recycled timber finishes, this biophilic design approach provides a calm and relaxing atmosphere, that humans can relate to easily.

15 workspaces have been provided for up to 24 staff to be shared between them. A large communal table made from recycled timber that was sourced from the Brunswick/Coburg Squash Courts, can be used for additional ‘emergency’ workspace, informal / ad-hoc meetings, or for communal coming together. It transforms into a table tennis table for recreation and team bonding. Two kitchen breakout tables can be added to extend this for whole-of-team meetings , xmas functions and more in the central space, and flexible accordion style seat benches made from cardboard have been sourced to adjust to these many different uses.

Natural materials, low VOC finishes, moss walls and plants, recycled timber and repurposed furniture, have all been selected with both the user and the planet in mind, hoping to make the world a little bit better rather than a little bit worse with every project that we do.


In-house preliminary greenhouse-gas (GHG) emission assessments where conducted, followed by a more comprehensive analysis based on the EPIC database. Formal assessment will be carried out as part of the client group’s CO2 auditing. In the interim our own assessment indicates;

  • A reduction in project CO2 equivalent emissions to approximately 14t, plus another 7t CO2e for economic flow (outside our control).
  • These figures result in approx 80kg/m2 – that is less than half the average of 190 kg of CO2e for a typical office fit-out (as per RESET figures), a great result.
  • This figure does not incorporate biogenic carbon, i.e. the positive impact (or negative associated CO2e figure) by storing carbon in timber : Biogenic carbon is carbon that is sequestered from the atmosphere during biomass growth. Utilising sustainably forested and recycled timber we can ensure this carbon remains stored, one of the main drivers for this project
  • The client will offset these 14+8 t CO2e by purchasing emission offsets, to bring the project to Carbon Zero even before considering biogenic carbon.
  • Distributing this total over an expected extended lifespan of 3x the average (given the incorporation of flexible design elements compared to a typical fit-out) the proposal has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than your average office fit-out, even before considering biogenic carbon.


Other sustainability measures:

  • Use of recycled / reclaimed material was of the highest priority, saving resources and minimising carbon footprint. Recycled timber was used for bench tops, desks (including tennis table) and feature walls behind the kitchenette and quiet room. Second hand chairs have been selected to match existing, while the majority of existing furniture has been re-used.
  • Biophillic Design was at the heart of the project, featuring moss walls to both the entry and boardroom. Planter boxes are incorporated to assist in filtering and improving the indoor air quality and reduce stress levels in an otherwise sterile environment.  Planter boxes on castors provide flexibility and allows employees to customise arrangements in the overall space.
  • Efficient, energy saving appliances were incorporated. No gas.
  • Custom-designed table tennis table was crafted using recycled timber from the original Coburg / Brunswick Squash Court. Kitchenette tables were constructed from this same material, designed to be placed at either end of the larger table, so it can be used as an informal meeting space.
  • Low VOC paints, stains and finishes incorporated. The planter boxes were designed as a modular system, so they can be customised to suit a particular space and intention, eg changed from a 3 tier planter box, to a double or single planter box.
  • Natural materials and finishes have been used where possible. Original/existing carpet, ceiling tiles and general lighting were re-used to minimise new resources.
  • Flexibility and adaptability of space to increase lifespan.
  • Whiteboard wallpaper to the meeting room perimeter allows inclusivity to all present, providing a larger surface area for contributions/discussion while encouraging minimal paper use. Working towards a paperless office with minimal carbon footprint.

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