A rainforest welcome
When you come out of the elevator, you step into an open clearing. It is unusual but inviting. There are old recycled telephone poles disguised as tree stumps. The walls show pictures of the Daintree Rainforest – images taken by the Australian Rainforest Foundation, who we granted $20,000 in 2016. A blackboard features inspirational quotes, all about creating a better world. This space works to make employees and guests feel like they have entered a forest. They’ve taken the first step into understanding what Australian Ethical is all about.
A key for the project was to introduce more greenery into our working space. Being surrounded by plants has been shown to increase productivity and be more enjoyable for employees. We’ve added a fully functional green wall with a variety of living plants. In the summer, the wall provides natural cooling and throughout the year, it naturally filters the office air. Plants are also suspended above our desks and spread throughout the communal areas.
Materials that don’t harm
“More than recycling, we looked at the recyclable matter for each surface and all furniture. We decided to look at the life cycle of each item and work towards increasing the life span of everything we were working with,” says the project design director, Sonya Alexander.
With this philosophy, we decided to keep certain pieces of furniture and repurpose them for the new space. We changed the kitchen cupboard material from laminate to wood when we learned laminate can’t be recycled and goes into landfill. Wood board can be reused as wood chip so it can have another life after our office.
We used Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) and other green product certified building materials. For carpet, we used Interface, a company we invest in with strong sustainability initiatives. We opted for their cradle to cradle program that will reclaim end of life carpet and remake it into new carpet – a material reutilization bonanza. All our walls are painted with eColour, Australia’s only zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. VOCs are harmful environmental pollutants and a cause of health issues. So that means our paints are zero-VOCs to help maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Animal welfare was also an important consideration and so we avoided using leather or fur anywhere. We decided to stay away from vinyl wallpaper, which isn’t recycled and costs the earth to produce. Instead, we found wallpaper made from recycled paper.
Throughout the entire project, every material used was sourced with the view of quality, reusability, and supporting community and history in mind.
Recycling and reusing
When most companies renovate their offices, little attention is paid to how the previous furniture and materials are disposed of. With this project, we took great care in not just the new, but also the old.
We took solid timber legs from our old boardroom tables and made them into new tables with a durable top. We chose to keep the existing light fittings and ceiling tiles from the old office because there were no re-use options available for these items. Lastly, furniture we could not find any room for, we donated to Fighting Chance.
Fighting Chance is a non-profit that provides work experience for young adults with disabilities. They are currently undergoing national expansion and opening two new work hubs this year. All our old desks, chairs and other items will largely furnish these hubs and free up funding to directly support more young adults with disabilities.