A fresh perspective on the office in area development

In addition to homes and shops, offices increasingly play a significant role in area developments. The office as an integral and dynamic part of a vibrant place. However, offices are often not the most motivating spaces. Concrete, suspended ceilings, cold lighting, bad coffee. That needs to change, and that's exactly what AM is accomplishing with Reinventing the Office. Heijme van Gellecum, as development manager, is involved in realizing these new generation offices in area developments that are valuable for people and the environment.

New communication tools, changing views on work-life balance, traffic congestion, and environmental considerations have a significant impact on 'the office'. Is there still a need for an office? "Absolutely," says Heijme. "The COVID-19 period accelerated what has been needed for a long time: innovative office buildings that pay more attention to people's needs." Moreover, it is high time to make office buildings more sustainable, ensuring that these buildings do not deplete energy from the earth but rather give back to it.

It's about more than just work

As a socially driven area developer, AM has long been creating environments, buildings, and offices that are healthier, more sustainable, and more social. Heijme explains, "The pandemic has mainly confirmed that the path we have taken is the right one. As area developers, we know how to successfully bring together living, recreation, work, and sports. In our office buildings, it's no longer just about work. We design around the user, the person, so that people prefer to come to the office rather than stay in their home office. Moreover, we take responsibility when it comes to the climate. AM aims to be climate-positive by 2035. Fortunately, we see that investors and companies, for whom we develop our offices, are also taking responsibility. They are committed to achieving the sustainability goals set by Europe and meeting the ESG (environment, social, governance) criteria."

More on this later. First, back to the human aspect. How does AM ensure that offices inspire their employees?

A truly social, healthy, and green building has everything that makes you want to stay, work, or live there.

Not isolated from the surroundings, but in connection.

Heijme paints a picture of an office building in an area development where amenities are found on the ground floor, an interactive plinth as it is called: "Think of a gym and a coffee bar. Residents from the neighborhood or flex workers can also go there. This creates a dynamic environment where people meet and inspire each other." He cites the project Crossover on the Zuidas in Amsterdam, developed by AM in collaboration with Equity Estate, as a successful example of this. He continues, "It is located at the head of the business district Zuidas, but also near the city district Rivierenbuurt. The building combines offices for entrepreneurs with homes for starters. In the plinth, you can find a restaurant, but also a maxillofacial surgeon and an orthodontist. The plinth is therefore part of the public environment and is not strictly business." Not only socially should the office buildings fit into the surroundings. Also, in terms of design and logistics. "We work with the best architects so that the building with iconic architecture adds something to the area. Ideally, it is also located near a public transport hub. Mobility is becoming increasingly important for employees. People no longer want to spend a long time in traffic jams to get to work or home."

Not a production factory, but an energy generator

Heijme explains that Reinventing the Office buildings contribute to health and well-being: "A truly social, healthy, and green building has everything that makes you want to stay, work, or live there. There are, of course, quick wins: a good lunch restaurant or a gym. But we believe that more is needed: daylight, space, air quality, and a high level of amenities. Both the user and the owner benefit from such a building. Employees who feel happier and healthier are also more motivated." He mentions AM's project Helix in Leidsche Rijn Utrecht as a successful example. A super healthy office building on the A2 with lots of glass and wood. You enter here in a central atrium where daylight reaches all floors through the glass facade. A striking yellow spiral staircase invites you to move and connects all floors. All AM office buildings are WELL certified and most are also BREEAM certified, explains Heijme. "These certifications have set standards for the health and well-being of the users of the building. We have embedded these standards as standard in our design process."

Not taking from the earth, but giving back

In the development of offices within urban developments, as mentioned earlier, the focus is not only on humans but also on sustainability, which shares a top priority. Fortunately, both interests can be well reconciled. For example, incorporating a rooftop park with more greenery, as we are currently doing in a new project in Utrecht. This is beneficial for biodiversity as well as for the well-being of employees. Another example is "De Oude Rechtbank" in Amersfoort, which AM will transform into a vibrant multi-tenant office building in the coming years. This building will eventually sequester more CO2 than it emits. The projects will comply with the new standards of EU Taxonomy, a classification demonstrating the sustainability of real estate. Heijme explains that performing well on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria is not something extra but an essential requirement for Reinventing the Office's office buildings. Achieving sustainability ambitions, according to him, benefits all parties involved. "We see that investors consider sustainable investment very important. This is because shareholders and the government require insight into building performance. This year, the CSRD obligation comes into effect. This is the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. Companies must demonstrate that their offices are at least Paris Proof. It is good to see that responsibility is now being taken."

Taking a bold stance

Personally, Heijme is also driven to give new meaning to working in an office with Reinventing the Office. "It's great to develop a building that adds something to the environment. At AM, we dare to take a bold stance and respond to societal issues. For example, we are going to construct an office entirely out of wood in Utrecht. Our buildings stand out immediately. They are more sustainable but also distinctive. Users of these offices feel proud when they enter their office building."