Monday 23 May 2016

Chloe Hampton - LSBU explore green infrastructure for a healthier workplace

London South Bank University (LSBU) has recently started a campaign to make the campus healthier and more sustainable. We were therefore very happy to host the green infrastructure as a building service design challenge. The design challenge was devised with focus on a real office space with real opportunities for improvement. The Clarence Centre for Enterprise and Innovation at LSBU was a suitable fit having recently been retrofitted, and has a typical office space layout, which can allow for replication - an important feature for engaging implementation. 

The Clarence Centre is a beautiful listed building renovated with a complimentary modern extension. It is a pleasure to work there, great location, looks amazing and wonderful people. Although, since I have been involved in the green infrastructure design challenge I have started to notice just how poor the indoor environmental quality is. It is very stuffy, the temperatures vary wildly from space to space with the offices being generally hot. Opening windows is our sole source of ventilation of which half open on to the busy London road. We do not measure or record anything in the building, something I think all spaces should do -  because if you don't know you can't fix it! 

The Clarence Centre has very little in the way of greenery and plants; green infrastructure however, is developing from a ‘nice to have’ aesthetic to an integral part of building service design and maintenance of spaces. The potential positive impact plants can have on indoor environmental quality and staff morale are numerous e.g. boosting productivity,  therefore helping to provide the business case for internal green infrastructure. It is exciting to have 'green sky' design solutions on site at LSBU that we may be able to implement and test, improving the working environment, supporting small businesses and informing research.
Typical office space within Clarence Centre
Universities offer a unique resource of both expertise for innovation and facilities to support it. They should be considered a playground of activity, for testing and trailing new ways of doing things and challenge the status quo. At LSBU, we have a number of interesting projects on site varying from testing 'sustainable' products to implementing innovative ways to heat and cool buildings to our Centre for Efficient and Renewable Energy in buildings. We work within an influence loop where enterprise informs research and research informs teaching. This ensures that we are working on the current issues in industry and that our students are learning relevant and current topics - such as green infrastructure as a building service. We have an excellent building services course at LSBU – staff and students of which were involved in the challenge. 

The Challenge received three submissions of a very high standard – especially given the tight time constraints. Each submission coincidentally focused on different areas of the building. The winner was Biospace, and as an occupant of the space, it was my favourite design. I could really see their ideas being implemented in the office and could imagine myself working very happily in their proposed space. The design consisted of an interesting amalgamation of greenery including hinged ‘green blinds’, edible plants, energy producing plants and technology that informs occupants of the plants needs. What I liked most was that it didn't change the workspace it simply edited and added unobtrusive clever greenery that served a purpose. 
The winning entry being scrutinised

Challenging the industry and academia to collaborate to develop ideas for the integration and retrofit of green infrastructure in the office spaces at LSBU allows for the development of a healthier, more sustainable and climatically resilient workplace, both on site and for the wider working community. 

Thank you to ARCC and CIBSE for the opportunity and especially thanks for the first plant in the office, which I am desperately trying not to kill! 

For more information about the competition and downloads of the submissions received including the winning BioSpace entry then click here.

Chloe Hampton, Research and Enterprise Support Officer 
The Green Infrastructure challenge complements and supports The LSBU Corporate Strategy, which focuses on real world impact, and The Enterprise Institutes based at the Clarence Centre are integral to this aim. I work within The Sustainable Communities Institute (SCi) one of four Enterprise Institutes at LSBU. It is an interdisciplinary and inter-professional centre of excellence working toward creating places for individuals and groups to live and work sustainably, both now and in the future. The focus of the Institute is to enhance performance, sustainability and wellbeing and reduce cost and resource usage through impactful interventions, research and policy guidance. 
LSBU has been awarded the ‘Commitment’ level award of the London Healthy Workplace Charter and is striving towards the ‘Excellent’ award.

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