Recycled buildings: how the emission-free Spaces Tullinløkka is reimagining the ‘new’ workplace

Recycled buildings: how the emission-free Spaces Tullinløkka is reimagining the ‘new’ workplace

By adapting an existing building with rescued, reclaimed materials, Oslo’s latest Spaces centre challenges our ideas about what a new building should be. 

As architects and construction firms across the globe reckon with their industry’s impact on climate and conservation, flexible workspace provider IWG is finding greener ways to grow. In a groundbreaking project, one of the company’s latest openings – Oslo’s Spaces Tullinløkka – was created with zero carbon emissions, thanks to a creative mix of property renovation and recycled interiors. 

The team behind the project – IWG, along with owners Entra ASA and architects Scenario Interior Architecture Design – has transformed a disused 1950s building in Oslo’s city centre with entirely reclaimed materials including bricks, steel, sinks, window panes and wall tiles, rescued from 25 demolished or refurbished properties across Oslo. 

These items, destined for landfill, were given a new life as structural elements and design flourishes in the Spaces building. Benches from a local swimming pool became the atrium’s staircase; broken glass from one building site became a curious design detail embedded in the floors. A total of 45 tonnes of steel – enough to build four F16 fighter jets and save 110 tonnes of CO2 – also went into the building. The use of reclaimed tiles alone saved 34,000kg of CO2 in the construction project.

“We were inventing everything afresh along the way,” says architect Kristine Aassved Storeide of Scenario, who worked on the building. “We had nothing to use for reference. I felt straightaway that this was a career-defining project. I want all my future projects to be as important as this one.”

The aspect that Storeide is most proud of is the inherent flexibility of the building. “One of the newer trends we’re seeing in our field is the demand for a flexibility, an elasticity to buildings: the ability to add or remove walls, or adapt plumbing, lighting and electricity for different occupants’ needs.” As these technical elements are the most expensive and time-consuming to create and update, she explains, designing them with this inbuilt adaptability will have a huge impact on reducing the costs and emissions required down the line.

She’s particularly excited about the interior design details inspired by the different materials discovered around Oslo. “We found lots of tiles that were going to be thrown out or smashed up – things that had been ordered wrongly or simply left over from construction – and we used them to create these different and distinct bathrooms, as well as making a very beautiful feature table out of them.” The result is one of the quirkiest and most appealing aspects of the building’s interior, she explains, and a great example of how upcycling and repurposing materials can lead to more characterful buildings, ones that showcase their sustainability with pride.

In the workplace of the future, Storeide predicts a shift of focus from luxury and exclusivity to visible and tangible sustainability. Having a green design element, she suggests, will be the architectural feature businesses will most want to shout about: “People are no longer solely concerned with something simply looking high-end – instead they want to have a visible element of sustainability.”

Property developers are increasingly searching for ways to offer workplaces while minimising their impact on the environment a footprint that the average business owner is becoming more conscious of. In an August 2020 Reuters survey, 72% of multigenerational respondents reported that they were concerned about environmental ethics, while 83% of workers said their workplace was not doing enough to address climate change.

Spaces Tullinløkka has already received numerous accolades, including the prestigious DOGA Badge of Honour for Design and Architecture. Storeide predicts that Spaces’ clear commitment to sustainable building will appeal to a whole new generation of business owners. “It’s going to attract the younger generation that is coming into the job market,” she says. “They want to work in a place that has a visibly green profile – I think it’s the way to attract the great younger minds.” 

Flexible workspace is the fastest-growing sector of the global workplace market. Make the most of this exciting investment opportunity by partnering with IWG today