China is the world's second largest market for LEED green building activity, but the sustainable architecture movement is still limited by local developers' preference for fast and cheap construction. However the newly minted net-zero Glumac Shanghai office could change that mentality in a big way. Developed by Gensler in collaboration with Shimizu, GIGA, and Glumac over the course of a year, the Shanghai office boasts a stunning array of high-tech sustainable features and is China's first LEED v4 Platinum certified building. It's also designed to become the first building to achieve Living Building Challenge certification in Asia. Click through to learn how one of Shanghai's healthiest offices is paving the way to a greener future in China.
The 6,000-square-foot project’s LEED v4 Platinum and projected full-petal LBC certifications are impressive, but the arguably more outstanding accomplishment is how the cross-cultural and geographic team managed to meet those high green standards. Not only is green implementation notoriously difficult for commercial buildings, but it can be harder still to gain approval from Chinese landlords who look at new sustainable systems like solar panels and rainwater recycling as more trouble than they’re worth. Luckily, the team found a unique location—a historic but centrally located site owned by the Chinese military—that also gave them the flexibility to design all mechanical systems and rooms from the ground up.
Another major difficulty was finding low-carbon and regionally sourced materials that were free of the toxins on the LBC-banned list. The Shanghai-based green materials consultant GIGA rose to the challenge with a surprising diversity of material choices that helped Gensler recreate the look and feel of Glumac’s other offices. The use of wood, however, was limited because formaldehyde is used in most of the veneer in China. In its place, the team installed rice board and strawboard—the strawboard pillars assembled by Shimizu were left unpainted to show off the design and fulfill the certifications’ green education component.
In addition to the double certifications, the Glumac Shanghai office aims to achieve WELL and RESET, two certifications that focus on indoor air quality and the health of the occupants. As part of RESET, a real-time indoor air monitoring system was installed to track the indoor PM 2.5 versus the outdoor reading, humidity, temperature, chemical off-gassing, and carbon dioxide levels. Because the outside air is purified through four different types of air filters before it reaches the office, the air inside will always stay healthy even when the city air pollution spikes to hazardous levels.
“Over the past two decades, all of the conversation has not been about people, it’s been about building efficiency,” says GIGA Founder Raefer Wallis. “Now we’re seeing a distinct shift in the industry to discussions about the people inside and how comfortable they feel. It’s not just about the performance of energy or water anymore, and that’s what I think is especially cool about this office. It tackles all of the pieces: energy efficiency, water efficiency, and health—making sure that people want to come here.” Glumac sustainable design manager Quinnie Li concurred, citing a low turnover rate and the approval of the 20-person staff.
In addition to designing for comfort, the office achieves net-zero energy—with the potential for plus-energy status—by combining energy-efficient systems, such as the LED lights and radiant heating and cooling floor system, with automated occupancy and daylight sensors, and solar panels. Excess energy produced will be fed back into the state grid. The team also designed the project to be net-zero carbon through a careful selection of low-carbon and MEP materials; after all the carbon is calculated, the footprint will be reduced to zero with the purchase of carbon offsets. Rainwater and condensation are collected, filtered and reused in water-efficient fixtures, bringing the office to net-zero water status.
“For this project to succeed we really needed an team of designers and contractors to help find the right materials and design,” says Li. “It’s really the integrated team effort that made this project successful.” The Glumac Shanghai office completed its LEED Platinum v4 accreditation in January and is currently completing the LBC certification process. The office was built to accommodate educational tours and its many high-tech sustainable features have even turned the office into an eco-friendly showroom and important precedent that provides inspiration for everyone from local homeowners to developers.
Images © Lucy Wang