28 March, 2024
Is reuse the answer to workplace transformation?
In a world focused increasingly on sustainability, strategic reuse is a powerful, and often preferable, approach to everything from our own clothing to office refurbishments.

However, when businesses want to deliver workplace transformation, is it possible to really do so with a focus on reuse, even when it comes to large structural elements?

Adaptive reuse and sustainability

First to look at the sustainability side of the conversation. It stands to reason that reuse is beneficial for the environment, but what does that really mean? Is it a question of marginality and creating a good corporate image, or does it really make a difference?

Context is everything and sometimes there’s a greater benefit to starting again with new, sustainable materials – the specifics of an individual project always make a difference. However, in broad terms, The University College of Estate Management has written that adaptive reuse projects can be a highly sustainable option:

“As with retrofitting, reusing a building for a new purpose is a far more sustainable alternative than choosing to demolish and redevelop the existing site. While constructing a new building might be more energy efficient, it can take 10-80 years to offset the amount of energy consumed in its construction.”

From the optimisation of energy consumption to reducing construction costs, there can be lots of benefits to reuse of infrastructure. In some cases (like our work with London South Bank University (LSBU) at the Electric House building) maintaining cultural heritage is also a consideration.


Sustainable design and build

Sustainability is inbuilt into our work and processes at Maris, so that we always deliver an optimal baseline for design and build. For example, we always incorporate responsible waste management, efforts to minimise energy use and reduce carbon emissions both directly and indirectly, and we take care to minimise the loss or damage to any habitats and ecosystems.   

Our Design Director Audrey has previously written about sustainability in design and build, and how it makes us more creative as designers:

“Making proactively sustainable choices makes you be more creative. For us, as designers, it’s about changing the mindset away from opting for new things to reusing things as much as possible but doing that in new and interesting ways. Thinking that way expands our brains and is probably good for the soul as well.”

She continued: “Workplace sustainability starts with the design and layout of spaces, implementing a circular and responsible approach from reuse of materials to designing in layers to allow for independent replacement or repairs and future disassembly.” 

Read more about creating a carbon-positive workspace

design and build

Does adaptive reuse really achieve transformation?

So, back to the question at hand. We all want to do our best for the environment, but does that mean foregoing the business and immediate human benefits of updating your workplace to the standard that you want? Can you reuse infrastructure (as well as soft furnishings and accessories), and still deliver the transformation that you want for your organisation?

Paul Sherwin, Managing Director at Maris, says: “The answer for financial services company, Hymans Robertson LLP, is a resounding ‘yes’!”

The company had occupied their existing office at London Wall for a number of years, and in an office refurbishment project spanning 22 weeks. The goal was to bring the space in line with the brand’s present credentials and future aspirations, as well as the changing world of work. Budget and time constraints necessitated creative design and logistics, part of which involved the reuse of the most costly elements – the internal structures.

We kept the meeting suites and the basic functionality of the two-floor space intact, focusing on how we repurposed existing room structures to give them a new lease of life for optimum feel and function in a more dynamic working environment.

Paul said: “This solution allowed the existing rooms to be ‘dressed’ to feel new, while maximising our sustainable approach and freeing up budget for more of the ‘nice to haves’. Across all 26,500 sq. ft. we were able to positively impact their business, agility of staff and provide a large communal co-working space that transformed how they operated.”

Want to transform your workplace?

Speak to the team at Maris