Unilever, the company that brings you soap, tea and Vaseline, recently completed construction on of the greenest headquarters yet to be built. Set in Hamburg’s HafenCity on the Elbe River, the building is much more than an office complex -- it's envisioned by Behnisch Architects as an extension of a new burgeoning city core. Inside is a huge atrium that is open to all visitors, while a democratic program above allows workers to collaborate like never before. The exterior of the building sports a new type of skin which deflects the intense winds that plow across the river. The building takes advantage of lots of daylight supplemented by efficient LED interior lights and state of the art heating and cooling systems to cut its energy footprint by 4x.
The interior of the Unilever HQ is designed like a vertical village. Multiple levels connect to each other, lacing throughout the huge daylit atrium. The spa, stores, and café on the first floor are open to the public, extending the social context of the building to the city. The upper stories link private and public workspaces with large informal seated areas around the central atrium. The open floor plan uses an atrium to anchor satellite work spaces. The building is designed to provide Unilever’s 1,200 employees with a collaborative environment that is healthier than the company’s last HQ in a standard office tower.
The building’s unusual second skin is composed of transparent ETFE panels, which act as a buffer against the winter winds. The plastic skin was conceived to save money without compromising on the performance of a double glass facade. The building also features chilled concrete floors and ceilings which keep the interior comfortable.
Supplementing the building’s daylit interior are custom surface-mount LEDs, which cut energy use by 70% compared to traditional lighting. Displacement-filtered fresh air help keeps the workforce perky during long days. Considered as a whole, the project backs up Unilever’s claim that it is one of the most sustainable office buildings in Europe.