Sustainable and stylish: circular design choices for CBRE IM

February 18, 2024

Profile picture of Petra Jongeneel with a grey-blue background

Petra Jongeneel

Senior Interior Architect

The day CBRE Investment Management's (IM) relocation plans became final, they immediately engaged us to handle the process from start to finish. It was a substantial project involving multiple teams. One thing was clear during the design phase: the new office had to be future-proof. In addition to a favorable location and a solid hybrid workplace strategy, this meant making sustainable design choices. In my opinion, we have demonstrated that a corporate character can coexist perfectly with an informal and stylish interior.

An office space with a sleek and professional interior design. The space has a large window on the left side that lets in lots of natural light. There are round tables with chairs, a large digital screen that displays information, two people in the space, art on the walls, and a blue accent wall that contributes to the color scheme.
Office interior with large windows letting in natural light. There are sitting areas with armchairs and side tables, an elongated table with stools where people work, and a work area with high stools and a long table by the window. The interior has an easy and inviting atmosphere with a neutral color scheme and wood and blue tones.
A coffee corner or break room with a contemporary interior design. There are round tables with chairs, a bar with coffee machines, large windows that let in natural light, and plants that provide green accents. The space has an inviting atmosphere with a combination of light wood, blue and dark brown tones.
A detailed view of the wooden panels placed around the bar. These panels are oriented vertically and have a round shape that envelops the bar. They create a kind of column or column effect around the bar. The wooden slats are evenly spaced and provide a structured, yet organic feel to the space. The color of the wood is warm and appears to have a natural finish, which contributes to the atmosphere of the interior. The circular design contributes to a modern yet cozy appearance of the space.
In the foreground is a glass door with a wooden frame, which appears to lead to another room or corridor. The door is slightly ajar, and through the glass a faint silhouette of someone moving can be seen, making it appear as if the person has just walked through the door. Behind the door is an office space with a row of workplaces on the right. The desks are equipped with computer screens and appear organized and neat. There are several office workers present, busy with their work. They are placed at some distance from each other, which indicates a spatial layout of the office.
A woman is visible sitting at a rectangular table with a dark blue table top. She is wearing a white blouse and sitting in front of an open laptop. Opposite her, on the wall, there is a large screen on which a video call is taking place. The screen shows two other people participating in the call. The room has wooden walls and a glass wall or dividing panel, which gives you a view into another room with plants. The floor is covered with a light gray carpet and there is an orange, cylindrical seating object without a backrest in the room. There is a white board or screen on the wall next to the door. The overall atmosphere of the space is professional and contemporary, with a calm color scheme and natural materials that give a comfortable yet businesslike appearance. It appears to be a small conference room or cubicle, designed for privacy and focus during video calls or individual work.
a spacious and well-lit environment with an open floor plan. The floor is covered with a light-colored carpet that appears to have a soft texture. On the left side of the image there are tall dark blue locker cabinets that reach almost to the ceiling. These cabinets are probably intended for personal storage of the employees.  In the center of the image you can see a kitchen unit with dark blue cabinets and a light gray countertop. There is a large stainless steel sink and what appears to be a built-in dishwasher or under-counter cabinetry. There are shelves above the kitchen unit and there is indirect lighting that gives the room a warm feeling.  To the right of the image is a seating area with a table and chairs where people can gather, possibly for informal meetings or breaks. People can be seen in the background, indicating activity and use of the space. The ceiling has a modern design with integrated lighting fixtures that provide even illumination of the room.  The overall aesthetic of the office is sleek, modern and functional, with a color palette consisting mainly of neutral tones with blue accents adding depth and interest to the design. The design seems to emphasize collaboration and flexibility within the workplace.
A sleek office reception area. The reception desk has a curved shape and is made of light wood with a white top layer. The counter has a large computer screen, a keyboard, a telephone and some decorative elements, such as a vase of flowers.  Behind the counter there is a large logo with the text 'CBRE' on a glass wall. The room has a high ceiling and is well lit by both artificial light and daylight coming through the large windows.  On the right side of the photo is a seating area with comfortable chairs and a table, separated by a glass wall. There are also plants that add a bit of greenery to the space, creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
A furnished office or lounge area within an office environment. The interior features different types of furniture and has an open and light feel. There are several seating areas with chairs and sofas that have different shapes and colors, such as a round, terracotta-colored sofa in the center and gray armchairs all around. There is a blue carpet on the floor that defines part of the seating area.  On the right side of the room is a high table with bar stools, which can be an informal workstation or meeting place. Decorative, industrial lamps hang above the table. The space is further equipped with built-in cabinets and partition walls that are partially made of glass, which allows the space to maintain an open character, yet create separate zones.  There are two people in the space. One person sits at the circular bench and uses a laptop and the other person stands at the high table and appears to be reading or looking at something.  The lighting in the room is modern, with both built-in ceiling lights and floor lamps giving a homey feel. The overall impression is that of a professional but comfortable and inviting workspace that offers flexibility for individual work as well as collaboration and social interaction.
A meeting room or conference room. Three persons sit at a long, rectangular wooden table with built-in cable management systems. The persons appear to be working on laptops.  The room is well lit with stylish, ring-shaped pendant lights that give a warm atmosphere. On the wall opposite the table hangs a large TV screen, probably for presentations or videoconferencing. There is a glass wall or window at the back of the room, and next to the screen is a plant that adds greenery to the space. The chairs are modern and seem ergonomically designed. The overall color scheme is neutral with gray and wood tones, contributing to a professional look.

New look

Just like many other companies, CBRE IM's office requirements have changed after the COVID-19 crisis. The investment firm recently relocated to Amsterdam's Zuidas and entrusted us with designing an entirely new floor for them. The goal was to create a hybrid workspace that encourages collaboration but also provides enough space for privacy. Alongside a well-thought-out workplace strategy, the design plays an equally important role in creating a pleasant and functional office.

Floor with a view

The design had to strike a perfect balance between formal and informal. CBRE IM wanted to be able to receive clients professionally while also having space for a relaxed cup of coffee. That's why the office is divided into different zones. The entrance area serves as a meeting center where people are welcomed. From the adjoining terrace, you have a view over the entire Zuidas, making it a perfect spot for Friday afternoon drinks. As you walk upstairs, you first pass by the work café: a place where colleagues can quickly open their laptops or enjoy lunch together. Then, you continue through the outer perimeter – also known as the fast lane – to access the floor. It surrounds the entire department and starts at the entrance. By the way, you'll also find the coffee, lockers, and coat racks there.

Organic and green

The open workspace is naturally shielded by pavilions: enclosed spaces where you can retreat for a phone call or meeting in peace. The area behind them feels like an organic landscape. This is achieved through the diversity of workspaces, as well as the abundance of greenery clustered around seating areas or phone booths. These plants not only add beauty but also purify the air, and research shows that they have a positive impact on employees' mental well-being.

Breathing new life

It was a priority for us to reuse as much furniture as possible - upgrading it where necessary. We had chairs refurbished and even the conference tables were simply moved after refurbishment. Additionally, when purchasing cabinets and lockers, we considered a flexible occupancy. We opted for minimal quantities, but with the possibility of expansion in the future. Ultimately, using fewer items is the most sustainable solution.

Responsible style choices

We also carefully considered the materials we would use, with sustainability as the primary focus over aesthetics. This didn't mean that we lost sight of style, but rather that we first prioritized responsible choices. Only then did we consider which fabric or color from that sustainable selection would fit nicely into the design.

This approach has paid off. Take the wooden frames, for example: not only do they have a warmer appearance, but they also have much lower CO₂ emissions compared to steel or aluminum alternatives. We also made a statement with the recycled plastic and organic finish of the poured floor, as the composition of the floor is relatively new and highly sustainable. Furthermore, the same material is used in the reception desk and as countertops in the pantries.

Playing with lines

Even the removable walls are circular. However, a challenge arose in the form of visible screw holes. Not aesthetically pleasing, so we installed baseboards at the top and bottom. Initially, we also looked for a solution for the visible seams between the panels, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Instead, it created a strong interplay of lines and gave the pavilions a tasteful uniqueness.

Responsible choices

For the elements that really needed replacing, such as the furniture in the work café, we still looked for the greenest options. This led us to furniture from quality suppliers within our own country, often opting for biobased materials.

Additionally, we critically assessed the existing climate ceiling: a sustainable, high-tech installation that helps the building achieve the highest possible energy performance. In order to save costs and reduce additional materials, we aligned the floor plan as much as possible with the installation - relocating the installation is expensive and complex. This allowed us to create the most optimal and sustainable situation, just like in the rest of the office. The end result: a functional, future-proof, and hybrid workspace with a responsible and stylish interior - and a remarkable 51 percent reduction in CO₂ emissions compared to a fit-out using traditional materials.

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