New head office focuses on the employees and the environment

Article
April 22, 2020
When it was time to plan Axis new head office in Lund, Sweden, the staff and the environment were the top priorities. The BREEAM certification method for assessing the building’s sustainability performance was used to help tick the right boxes.

Over the years, as Axis expanded, there was a constant need to get more office space in Lund, southwestern Sweden. While the idea was never to fit the entire operation into one building, it was spread over four houses in the city’s Ideon Science Park, so there was ample room for improvements and synergies.

It was clear that it would prove hard to find a suitable existing building in Lund that fit Axis needs. It called for new construction, and it should preferably be close to the current head office because leaving Lund was never really an alternative.

In an interview in 2018, Björn Hallerborn, PR & Corporate Communications Manager at Axis, said: “We’ve been a Lund company from the beginning, and we got our start at Ideon. For us, there is great worth in having the company remain gathered where it has its roots. It would probably impact the company culture negatively if we moved from Lund, even if it was only some twenty or thirty kilometers away.”

For Axis, it is essential to be close to the right talent. Though Lund is a small city, there is a renowned university with an active faculty of engineering where Axis finds many of its employees. There are many companies to cooperate with around R&D.

The right place just across the street

Rune Frithiof, Grenden
Project manager Rune Frithiof – photographed in the entrance area of the new building.

One day in January 2013, project manager Rune Frithiof was up at the top 19th floor of Lund’s highest building, across the street from Axis’ current head office. “I was looking out across the grounds and saw that it would be possible to build our new head office on the neighboring site,” he recalls.

Although the plot looked rather insignificant, it was soon apparent that it had potential. “We bought the entire plot of land,” Frithiof says. “Our head office will take up half of it, and the rest will be a parking lot. Choosing the plot as an alternative for future expansion, we saw that there would be enough space to build another house.”

Once commissioned, some 1,250 employees will work in the 10-floor, 42,000 square meters building. Axis will keep most of its current premises, with around half of the workforce moving to the new building- sometime during the second quarter of 2020.

Providing places for meetings and well-being

Visitors to the new Axis head office will first experience an inviting reception area, which along with the rest of the building, features Nordic natural materials, such as stone and wood.

The thought has been to create a hub at the entrance that invites meetings. In the entrance hall, there are a lot of various meeting places with different furnishing. From four-person conference rooms to an auditorium with a seating capacity of 60 persons as well as, for example, small and large lounge suites and a raised podium with integrated sofas. There is also a bistro-style café and a staff restaurant, seating close to 500 persons, with a state-of-the-art restaurant kitchen.

Aiming to promote a healthy lifestyle among its staff, Axis has outfitted the new house with a well-equipped gym and a small gymnasium for group activities as well as a yoga room. There is also a boules court in the courtyard.

State-of-the-art solutions

With the new house, Axis takes the opportunity to show its cutting-edge products and solutions in a unique experience center, adjoining the entrance area. It will be four times the size of the current experience center, featuring lots of interactivity.

Naturally, there will be many Axis products and solutions in the building. For example, cameras will be used for surveillance and other purposes, often in combination with intelligent analytics. Tracking and heat mapping will be used to learn how people move and gather on the premises, but also to control ventilation. Other applications include Axis audio solutions and the building’s access control and security system, which uses Axis own products.

Focus on employees

One of the key ideas in planning the new head office was to construct a building where employees could thrive. Somewhat contrary to current practice, Axis chose to not rely only on open office landscapes. Instead, there will be a variety of one-, two- and four-person offices.

“Axis has, activity-based work sites, where one-person rooms are part of this,” Frithiof says. “Some people need that in their daily work. In our experience this is appreciated and improves their productivity. “That said,” he continues, “we will have some open office landscapes, but also quiet rooms, project rooms and several different types of conference rooms, trying to get a good balance. We’ve placed the open office landscapes in the best positions at the outside corners with floor to ceiling windows, and there is soft carpeting to soften the sound.”

Assessing sustainability performance

With the Axis focus on the environment, there was no discussion about getting a third-party certification of the new building’s sustainability performance. Axis chose the British BREEAM system (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) in its Swedish adaption BREEAM-SE.

Used in more than 70 countries, BREEAM is the leading sustainability assessment and certification method in the world and has been used for more than 500,000 buildings. It encompasses the entire building life cycle, focusing on nine main categories, which in total cover some 130 aspects:

  • Management
  • Energy
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Land use and ecology
  • Pollution
Jonny Ericsson
Jonny Ericson, the project BREEAM Assessor, working for technical consultants WSP Sweden.

Axis aims for BREEAM’s Excellent performance rating, the second-best, which requires 70-percent compliance. “It’s quite demanding, as you have to be good across the line. You can’t sub- optimize to get an Excellent rating,” says Jonny Ericson, from technical consultants WSP Sweden, who is the project BREEAM Assessor. WSP has also acted as the project Advisory Professional, coordinating and managing the process throughout the project and provided support.

Sustainability certification is the rule today, but chiefly if the building is put on the market or leased. “It’s unusual if you’re going to use the building yourself. Axis’ decision is quite notable, and it shows that the company cares for its staff and the local environment as well as the environment in general.”

Smart ventilation improves the indoor climate

Ventilation – and its effect on the indoor air quality – is often a source of discontent among the people working in an office, even in new constructions. Axis went the extra mile to install smart ventilation in each room, with mechanical ventilation that features both supply and exhaust fans, not only the supply fans, which is often the case. There is also natural ventilation – not so common in these air-conditioned times. In practice, it means that you can actually open the windows.

“We know that many people appreciate that,” Frithiof says. “There are sensors in the windowpanes that shut down the mechanical ventilation when opening the window.” The result is that the person or persons working in the room can adapt the ventilation to their preferences. 

Getting the required thermal comfort also includes passive design solutions, such as having a white façade, the wedge-shaped fins on the façade that deflects the sunlight part of the day and, choosing the right windowpanes.

Designing for energy efficiency

Grenden roof, solar panels
Energy optimization is a BREEAM top priority – and a reason for having installed solar panels on the roof.

Buildings consume vast amounts of energy. For example, in 2018, it was estimated that residential and commercial sectors accounted for roughly 40 percent of the entire US energy consumption. Unsurprisingly, energy optimization is a BREEAM top priority. Axis has chosen to install solar panels on the roof, which will contribute energy to the operation of the building. Any surplus energy will be sold to the grid.

At the planning stage, there were long discussions about choosing the right energy source. The final decision was to connect to the Lund Municipality district heating network. “Maybe we could have found a cheaper solution,” says Frithiof, “but it’s already there, it’s proven, and it’s an energy-efficient alternative, especially as we use green district heating.”

Other energy-reducing solutions include motion sensor LED lighting in the entire building and an advanced Building Management System (BMS) that makes it possible to monitor and measure the energy consumption for future improvement.

Evaluated the ecological value

Grenden courtyard
Looking down at the courtyard – and the boules court.

Ericson says that a lot of environmental priorities have gone into the design of the building. “For the employees, there will be superior indoor climate and comfort, which I, personally, feel is the big advantage of this building,” he says. “It’s also worth mentioning that before construction started, Axis had a university biologist examine the grounds and the vegetation to evaluate the ecological value.”  

The ecologist then suggested solutions for new ecology and to maintain the biodiversity of the site. For example, there are so-called rain gardens, shallow depressions that will temporarily hold rainwater runoff, with native shrubs and flowers. With the original inhabitants in mind, there will even be insect hotels in the courtyard and the grounds.

Bike-friendly solutions

One category where Axis got many BREEAM points is transport. Apart from being close to traffic routes and public transport, there are also some 540 parking spaces for bicycles. Not so strange in a city that has been voted Sweden's best bicycle city several times. All new Axis employees receive a bike. “Many employees ride their bikes to work,” says Frithiof. “We decided to install ventilated lockers in the changing rooms, to keep things more hygienic.”

So, whether it is meeting places, superior indoor climate, or other well-thought-out solutions, it is clear that Axis employees – both present and future – have a lot to look forward to in Axis’ new head office.

 

Facts: Axis new head office

  • Location: Lund, Sweden

  • Architects: FOJAB Arkitekter, Malmö

  • Interior design: Landén + Krantz Arkitekter, Lund

  • Contractor: HENT Sverige AB, Malmö

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