The Szencorp Buiding: 86 per cent of staff unhappy with the temperature…but forgiving

By Tina Perinotto…

In a sign that the sustainable building industry is coming of age,  developer and energy consultancy Szencorp has revealed a “warts and all” report on its refurbished 6 star Green Star building in South Melbourne.

According to Peter Szental, managing director of Szencorp, (a TFE sponsor) the Building Use Study benchmarked the premises in the top 4 per cent for overall building performance in Australia.

But although the report found tenants were not happy with the air-conditioning system, they were forgiving because of the building’s “green” credentials.

Mr Szental said said that while the building at 40 Albert Road, South Melbourne,  achieved excellent results in a number of areas including design, image, and perceived productivity and health, the study uncovered that 86 per cent of staff were unhappy with the temperature within the building.

The results also showed that tenants’ reported perceived productivity was in the top 9 per cent of Australian buildings, but this was actually a 1.5 per cent decrease from a similar 2006 report on the building that showed a 13 per cent increase in productivity.

However, Mr Szental said that tolerance of the building’s shortcomings, such as temperature, was high partly because tenants appreciated that the building was highly energy efficient and also because tenants had a reasonable amount of control over their working environments.

“The study results prove that the Szencorp Building continues to be an exceptional sustainable building, but it is also clear that we have a number of improvements to make to increase tenant satisfaction,” Mr Szental said.

“It’s essential to conduct assessments on building performance, from staff satisfaction through to energy, water and waste performance, and then continually refine the building from these results.

“The ‘warts and all’ approach we take for publicly reporting our performance results demonstrates my strong support for mandatory performance disclosure as proposed by the Commonwealth Government starting in 2010.

“Building owners should learn from our mistakes, consider replicating our successes, and be honest about their own building’s performance,” Mr Szental said.

The 2009 study compared the Szencorp Building against 55 Australian and 81 international office buildings. Key findings from the 2009 study included:

•    The Szencorp Building was the highest scoring Australian building in the international sustainable buildings benchmark dataset, achieving a ‘Good Practice’ rating for overall performance.
•    Perceived productivity was in the top 9 per cent of Australian buildings, but this was actually a 1.5 per cent decrease from the 2006 results, which showed a 13 per cent increase in productivity. Building Use Studies research shows only 30 per cent of buildings have positive productivity ratings.
•    Tenants rated the Szencorp Building’s image and design as very positive, placing it fourth in the Australian dataset for image.
•    The speed at which problems such as temperature were addressed rated better than the national benchmark.
•    The 2006 study revealed tenants were very happy with the level of artificial and natural light, but the 2009 study showed that the tenants believed there was not enough natural light.
•    86 per cent of staff were dissatisfied with ventilation, 70 per cent were dissatisfied with cooling and 79 per cent dissatisfied with heating. However, forgiveness for these matters was also high.
•    Travel to work by bicycle increased from 5 per cent in 2006 to 11 per cent in 2009, but over 50 per cent of staff still travelled to work by car, showing the importance of behaviour programs alongside good building design.
•    54 per cent of tenants said they felt “more healthy” working in the Szencorp Building.
•    The Szencorp Building’s overall performance rating improved from 76 to 80 out of 100.
•    Szencorp needed to facilitate tenant education of the building’s controls, such as heating, cooling and lighting, and the ability to influence these controls.

Monica Vandenberg from Encompass Sustainability, who conducted the study, said Szencorp’s decision to release the results – good and bad – was admirable.

“Szencorp’s disclosure of its study results so that others can learn from its lessons is fantastic for the sustainable building industry and others should be encouraged to do the same,” Ms Vandenberg said.

A media statement from Szencorp said: “The Szencorp Building remains Australia’s highest rated sustainable building with a 6 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, and 5 star NABERS ratings for energy and water.

“It was Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star office building retrofit and has won numerous awards. Its tenants are Szencorp, Energy Conservation Systems, Closed Loop and the Banksia Environmental Foundation.”

See the full Post Occupancy Evaluation Report at https://www.theszencorpbuilding.com/PDFs/Szencorp%20Post%20Occ%20Study%202009_FINAL.pdf