Leading by example

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GreenAir prides itself as being at the forefront of plantscape design for the built environment, advising and collaborating with architects and new thinkers - especially when it comes to the environment, in the modern workplace. One such person is Wendy Jones.

Wendy is a professional project leader, who specialises in advising businesses on sustainable, integrated design, build and change in workplace transformation. Her holistic approach encompasses an end-to-end process, starting at the very beginning of a client’s journey, by helping with the selection of new premises, advising and assisting with the design and build process, implementing a change management programme for their staff, and finally re-locating her clients into their new work environment.

One such project Jones has recently been involved with is Chapman Tripp’s new office fit out, located within the new Commercial Bay complex in downtown Auckland.

“I have been working with Chapman Tripp for nearly two years, now, liaising closely with the entire team on the delivery of the design – with the architects Warren & Mahoney and the plant installation specialists, GreenAir,” says Jones. “It’s my first big install with GreenAir, and the result has really enhanced the space.”

Jones is an enthusiastic advocate for the use of plants in the workplace – not just for their associated health and wellbeing benefits, which have been well documented through a number of international studies, but also from an aesthetic point of view.

“These days, with office spaces becoming more open plan, an architect doesn’t always have walls to build around or work with, so they have to be more creative, and that can be quite beautifully done with plants and the biophilia that goes into these spaces. And there’s also the sustainability aspect [of plants] – bringing the outdoors in, trying to build that connection with the outside, creating visual lines with nature, and bringing sunlight into the building.”

Hanging gardens

In the case of the Chapman Tripp fit out, Jones was particularly impressed with GreenAir’s solution of suspending the plants on large hanging frames above several work areas. “The way the plants have been put into the space, lifting them up off the floor, is clever,” she says. “Often you just have plants placed in pots or planters on top of storage units or filing cabinets – but this is different. I think that it is a very beautiful architectural response.”

Jones is encouraged by the ways in which plants are now being used to demarcate areas within office spaces – where before you’d have a solid wall, now you have plant displays and climbing vines, or by cordoning off areas of activity. Also in the way plants are being used as way finders, which is evident in the Chapman Tripp fit out, where much of the plant infrastructure is hung from the ceiling, making it is easier for workers to look up and identify areas around the office.

Plants have also been used more densely in the communal and break out areas – because plants relax people and make them feel more at ease, says Jones. “Interestingly, there is the culinary aspect to using plants in the kitchen areas, too, with pots and planters containing herbs that people can pick off and use as a garnish on their salads, or mint in their tea. There are so many ways plants can be used.”

 

Blurred lines

As our urban environments become denser, Jones says it’s good to try and place pops of nature into our working spaces. “It’s a good message from a culture of change perspective that we care; that the organisations we work for care about their employees, and that they have invested in the wellbeing of their working environment.”

“What I’m enjoying about working with the plants – and in particular, now that I’m working with GreenAir – is the playfulness with how you can use them to create quite beautiful spaces.”

Plants, says Jones, help soften any built environment. And now that there’s not such a stark distinction between work and home, being surrounded by plants is a visual reminder that it’s a little more relaxed, more like being at home – and at the same time, ‘come here and we’ll take care of you’ – a sentiment that has struck a poignant chord during this time of Covid.

The Covid effect

“It was interesting, three recent clients in Commercial Bay all moved into their new environments at about the same time. They had only been in the building for two weeks, when Auckland went into its second lockdown. When we came back out of lockdown, there was a different approach from all three – and it was very much about the safety of their people. Am I coming back into a healthy space? Is it safe for me to do this?”

Post Covid, Jones says the health and safety of staff are now at the forefront of her clients’ minds – that, and how to encourage their staff to come back to work.

“In my industry, we are now all looking for ways of giving the message to our clients and their staff that their work environments are safe and healthy – and plants are definitely one way of doing that. I think there will be a big shift on where they [clients] spend their dollar. Traditionally, a lot of money was spent on the physical design – the ‘hard’ stuff, like desks and chairs, etc – but I think there will be a shift, with more money spent on technology, helping staff communicate with Zoom and Skype, but I also think there will be more incentive to maximise value from indoor planting.”

Plan early

Client expectation is for fully grown, mature plants from day one. But plants take time to grown – many months, in some cases. Instead of making their plant decisions at the end of the process, Jones says she encourages her clients to make them early on, so that they can be grown to order – so when it comes to installing the plants, they are the right size and shape for the space. “Think of the timeframe. If plants are important to you, we need to bring the tender process for choosing your preferred supplier forward.”

In the case of Chapman Tripp, the timing was excellent and the result looks beautiful. Jones says it has also been a beautiful combination between the architects Warren & Mahoney and GreenAir, with everyone working really well together, including the install team from Alaska.

“GreenAir’s design solution and installation was excellent, and their team were exceptional. They were incredibly knowledgeable and came fully equipped… and were very careful. You can imagine how nervous everyone was, hanging plants with all that soil in a brand new, high class fit out!”

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