The post-COVID landscape is taking shape before our eyes as businesses reopen their offices and employees with lockdown fatigue look forward to returning to their desks. 

While commercial activity is resuming steadily, there’s no doubt that it’s not going to be business as usual after the pandemic – and a new generation of green office precinct developments may be the ideal type of premises for socially distanced work.

In this article, we take a look at one of today’s biggest commercial property trends: green, mixed-use buildings within urban park areas. 

Green office precinct developments take centre stage

Green architecture which is based on the principles of sustainability, low energy use and renewable materials was a big trend in commercial space long before COVID-19. Business park development has seen a similar shift to business precincts with an integrated mixed-use offering.

The fresh air, open commercial spaces and integration between nature and urban development that these types of buildings offer have become even more important in the post-pandemic world, and the definition of green has expanded beyond the building itself. 

The latest green developments feature stylish mixed-use environments that allow people to live, work and play in a parkland setting – with health and safety measures in place to protect residents and workers alike from present and future pandemics. 

Companies are beginning to take in the holistic wellbeing of their employees, considering both their work lives and better overall lives. The balance between nature and the built environment in locations such as Century City and the new Harbour Arch in the CBD offer employees good access to public transport, green spaces with walkable precincts and vibrant after-hours relaxation.

So what does this mean for the 21st Century Green Office Precinct?

A reconfiguration from office park to green office precinct will mean that office zones will need to be future-looking and responsive to the changing business world in as much as they will be;

  • centrally located with easy access to public transport
  • inclusive of other spaces – a mixed-use environment with access to shopping, restaurants, parks and public recreation areas

The 21st century office will also need to offer a diversity of different workspaces for different business types and needs while still embracing the surrounds of the city.

Shifting expectations post-pandemic 

The worldwide disease outbreak which is now in its second year has brought home several important health messages to billions of people around the world.

One of the realisations that the extended lockdown brought was just how clean, calm and peaceful a city can be when human activity is reduced. Clean air, an abundance of nature and the lack of traffic jams gave many of us pause for thought as we considered our living and working arrangements afresh. 

This new way of life is bound to have a marked effect on the way people choose to live and work going forward. 

  • Even after South Africa‘s vaccination program is completed and the pandemic starts to subside, building users –  both employees and management – will approach their workplaces with very different health and safety expectations. 
  • Some green buildings will need to be modified on the inside to allow for social distancing in the workplace as companies move away from open-plan layouts. 
  • However,  the overall aesthetic and the association of green buildings with environmental friendliness and good health will make the latest eco-friendly buildings desirable for years to come. 

Modern buildings aren’t the only ones going green

Our new collective focus on health and safety may have another unforeseen consequence: the repurposing and renovation of older buildings for hygiene, user-friendliness and energy efficiency.

Property owners with commercial buildings that predate the green building trend will not be able to match the aesthetics, environmentally friendly design and desirability of today’s five-star green developments.

Nonetheless, there are still several steps that can be taken to bring old office blocks in line with contemporary environmental standards.

  • Start with a building audit. Assessing the energy efficiency of your building’s aircon system, water storage and overall electricity usage as well as access to green areas is the first step in assessing what renovations need to be done
  • Integrate health and facilities. There are many overlapping benefits that accrue when old buildings are renovated with eco-friendly amenities. New air circulation systems are likely to include viral filters while a modem access control system could incorporate thermal scanners or other temperature checking devices to detect potentially ill people. 

The post pandemic future looks decidedly green 

If you’re in the market for a commercial property in 2021, your choice of environmentally conscious premises will be wider than ever before.

Whether you opt for a new office unit in a green mixed-use development or choose more traditional business premises in a recently renovated building, our team would love to assist you in making the best choice for your business.

Contact us today to view our portfolio of office space in the greater Cape Town region.