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Office Building Design Trends - What's Next In A Tenant's Market?

Last updated:
Sep 2, 2020
Commercial Real Estate


Matthew Pollak
Matthew Pollak

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Since COVID, office tenants have been gifted a luxury, something they haven’t experienced in the last decade.

That luxury is ‘choice’.

With the abundance of vacant and sublease office space on the market, the building’s amenities -  how they feel and how they connect to provide a community feel - might just be the deciding factor for a business looking to lease space.

In a competitive market with low-interest rates, we expect more landlords to start upgrading their facilities to compete for quality tenants. Here are some office building design trends we are seeing now, that may pick up over the coming years.

Fitness centres and end-of-trip facilities

When you think of a building’s gym and end-of-trip facilities, you typically think of a basement exercise room, bathroom, shower and bike rack. But this type of offering is now part and parcel. A shower and storage facility is no longer enough to give a building competitive advantage. Commercial tenants expect it, therefore the “amenity” becomes what the gym or space offers.

To stay ahead, owners have started listening to their occupant's needs and studying global office building design trends. The result? The emergence of full-service fitness centres that offer premium exercise equipment, fitness classes, personal lockers, bike storage areas and grooming stations. We’ve even seen dedicated towel services and vending machines that offer bicycle repair parts!

Office Building Design Trend Amenities

The new multimillion-dollar end-of-trip facilities at 101 Collins in Melbourne (shown above) are a great example. World-leading in design, the amenities were created to inspire new levels of fitness and wellbeing. Known as ONE, the design features a resort-style spa and wellness experience, over 500 bike racks and 512 personal lockers, “hydration stations”, ventilated drying rooms, 45 showers, a dedicated towel service, and individualised grooming stations with hair straighteners, hairdryers and artisan hand soaps.


These days, the key to attracting great tenants is by courting millennials who practically left the womb with a smartphone in their hand. And one way to do it is through SMARTSmart building technology.

Providing universal wireless access is already standard in Premium and A-grade buildings. But some landlords are going a step further by providing things like:

  • Free independent Wi-Fi zones for personal use
  • Screen displays in common areas - that offer valuable information, like transportation choices (in real-time), high traffic locations, local news, weather or tenant directories
  • Wireless technology to monitor who comes through the building - this is being done in a variety of ways, from facial recognition to sensors that scan identity via Smartphone or handprint, and eliminates the need for physical access passes that can be misplaced or stolen
  • Building apps - that help occupants navigate the building, communicate issues with their property management team, or allow users to order lunch or reserve shared spaces.
Office building design trends: Smart Building

The Edge in Amsterdam (above) is a great example. Though not a new development, the building is considered the smartest in the world and has over 28,000 IoT sensors which help monitor and control motion, light, temperature, humidity and more! The facility can even recognise your car as you drive in and the building’s app can help occupants find their perfect workspace each day.

The climate for workspaces is also controlled by the individual. And occupants only need only to tell the app what their preferred temperature is once.

Wellness in office building design

The health and wellness industry has been growing rapidly over the last few years. And real estate is fast becoming a vehicle to deliver wellness to office workers who spend 90% of their time indoors. So, we’re seeing more and more forward-thinking commercial landlords incorporating wellness initiatives into building design through:

  • Open plan designs
  • Increased ventilation
  • Double height windows to maximise light and space
  • Air filtration through more plants and green walls
  • Thermal control
  • Grand staircases to encourage more steps
  • “Green” or “biophilic” spaces for tenants to relax and reconnect with nature
Office building design trends: Wellness

For instance, Poly Centre in Sydney (above), with its high ceilings and an abundance of natural light, was built with wellness in mind. Flexible floor plates encourage movement and collaboration, balconies offer employees a space to get some air and take a break, and the building’s double-height windows maximise light and space and bring the outside in.

Amenity-Rich “Centres”

Commercial real estate developers have started experimenting with new amenity-rich centres that turn office buildings into campus-like facilities where tenants and visitors alike can shop, visit the bank, go out for dinner, watch a movie and more. Some centres are even going as far as to offer free rideshares or driverless shuttle buses.  

This strategy has been successful for US-based Equity Office, which is renowned for iconic buildings that push the boundaries of design. One of their latest developments, Willis Tower (pictured below), a 110-storey building located in Chicago, offers a five-storey dining, retail and immersive-entertainment experience at the base of the building. The office tower also provides two amenity floors (each with a cafe), a bar, fitness centre, 24-hour security, messenger centre, parking garage and bicycle parking.

Outdoor areas

With office workers spending so much time indoors, forward-focused landlords are turning their attention to functional outdoor spaces where office workers can soak up some vitamin D, grab a bite and unplug. Rooftops, in particular, are gaining in popularity - providing sunshine, fresh air, views and that ‘first-class’ feel.

Office building design trends: Outdoor area

In fact, most new projects incorporate terraces or rooftop spaces and owners of older properties are seemingly spinning them out of nowhere. The White Collar Factory in London (above) has an enviable rooftop space 16 stories up. Shared by a range of tenants, the design features lounge areas, 150-metre running track and pop-up cafe.

The Twitter office in San Francisco (below) is another example. It includes a park-like rooftop deck that covers almost half an acre and offers a vegetable garden, beautiful skyline views, lounge areas and a venue for events.

Office building design: Outdoor area

Lounges and hospitality/service-inspired amenities

Lounges/lobby upgrades are already popular with landlords. That’s because, when done well, they can inject a bit of energy into the space and activate tenants as soon as they enter the building.

But some office buildings around the world have taken lounges and lobbies a step further. Recognising that tenants are craving authentic experiences that help them feel part of a wider community, landlords are transforming lobbies into spaces where people can gather, take a break, co-work or network.

Office building design trend: Lounges

For instance, The Lounge at the Royal Club (above) provides activity areas for its building tenants. The George Place foyer (below), located in Sydney, joins three buildings together via a vibrant atrium space, which connects its 3,500 tenants and features curated art walls, flexible workspaces, lounge areas, conference facilities and wellness areas.

Office building design trend: Lounges

Other service/hospitality-inspired amenities that are gaining popularity include pantry and catering services, secure parcel lockers (to meet the demand for online shopping) and grab-and-go restaurants. An eight-square-metre 7-eleven pilot store has even been set up on the 27th floor of an office tower in Brisbane. Accessible only to building occupants, it’s the first of its kind to operate outside of 7-Eleven’s own spaces.

Shared meeting facilities

In response to the rise in coworking, some landlords have started offering meeting rooms, event areas and business lounges to building occupants. These spaces can be booked and give tenants the opportunity to hold gatherings larger than their own offices could allow, on-site.

Speculative fit-outs

Landlords are always looking for new ways to attract tenants. One particular tactic gaining traction: making moving in quicker and easier.

With rising vacancy, landlords are installing speculatively fitted space to capture tenant demand. Most companies can’t get board approval for a new office that requires upfront capital, particularly post-COVID, so tenants have started pushing for cost-neutral solutions. In fact, research shows there’s been a 30 per cent increase in tenant demand for plug and play Sydney office space since the start of the pandemic.

From now on, we expect more and more landlords to jump on this office building design trend to stay competitive and appeal to quality tenants. Natural finishes, residential-style furniture, soft and a combination of collaborative areas and quiet focus zones are just some of the current trends.

And in a post-COVID world...

The question will be how relevant these amenities will be when people are working from home two, three or four days a week. They may be even more in demand for companies trying to entice their staff back into the office!

You don’t have to go to Chicago to work amongst dining precincts or to London for a roof-top running track. During the first stage of engagement, Tenant CS will help you understand the needs of your staff. This will help you find the size, location and amenity of your future workplace.

Contact us today for an obligation-free discussion

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