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More sustainable offices if Vasakronan gets to decide

The remodeling of Sergelhusen in Stockholm was a huge challenge—but also a dream project.

“We’re incredibly proud. Two of the three architects we consulted initially recommended that we demolish the buildings and start again,” sustainability manger Anna Denell explains.

Buildings are responsible for a very high proportion of society’s environmental impact. In order to minimize their contribution, property company Vasakronan, one of Coor’s collaboration partners, is focusing on sustainable construction and remodeling. The goal is for operations to be climate neutral throughout the value chain by 2030, fifteen years earlier that Sweden’s national target. Coor has worked on Vasakronan’s properties since fall 2008. Today, Coor handles maintenance and property services for all Vasakronan’s properties.

Sergelhusen are three of these properties, a series of buildings constructed in the 60s at one of Stockholm’s most central sites at Sergels Torg. When the bank that used most of the property for 50 years moved out, this created an opportunity for the landlord to modernize the buildings.

“When we started the project, the intention was to keep as much as possible and remodel. It is so much more environmentally friendly to avoid demolishing buildings,” Anna Denell explains. Anna has worked with environmental issues at Vasakronan since 2008 and has been the company’s sustainability manager for several years.

She explains that each square meter built normally requires a ton of materials, when building from scratch. A new construction at Sergels Torg would require an equivalent volume of material to be removed and processed before the new buildings could be constructed. This was ruled out as an alternative.

“Because Sergelhusen are located at the center of the city where there’s a lot of traffic, the logistics became particularly important. We coordinated logistics so that the trucks arriving with building materials were always fully loaded and then removed building waste on the way out. This required companies that would usually view each other as competitors to collaborate,” Anna continues.

Vasakronan chose to retain the concrete frame in line with the company’s solid sustainability ethos, which included careful waste management, innovative energy solutions and materials choices.

“It has been important for us to make use of the construction materials in the building even when it was not possible to retain them on site, such as ceiling panels, floors and glass sections. A great deal has been dismantled and used in other construction projects. We also removed, washed and replaced a granite facade,” Anna continues.

It sounds expensive and yes, the fact is that the remodeling is one of central Stockholm’s most extensive projects with a total cost of SEK 1.5 Bn. But it has attracted a lot of attention and in November, Sweden Green Buildings Council awarded Sergelhusen LEED building of the year, with the motivation that the project is groundbreaking in terms of sustainability.

LEED is the most common international environmental certification system for buildings where skull requirements and scores in different categories relating to building design and construction lead to environmental certification. In May 2021, Sergelhusen’s LEED certification was awarded the highest rating, Platinum, as well as being one of the projects awarded the highest total rating globally. There are only two other properties in the world with a higher rating according to LEED’s latest and most far-reaching certification.

“It was really great. The award and the high score we achieved generates interest in the project, and inspires and informs people of everything we have done,” Anna beams. ”We collect rainwater on the roof, store it in large barrels in the old bank vaults and then use it to flush the toilets.”

She enthusiastically describes several innovative energy and sustainability solutions that have been include in the design, including a roof terrace with flowering plants for bees and other pollinators that also serves as a beautiful recreation area for the people working in the building.

“People are profoundly affected by the buildings and environment they spend time in. It is important to feel safe outside and inside. In our part of the world, we spend a lot of time indoors, so access to daylight and fresh air are important, as well as temperature and acoustics. We have designed the building to encourage people to move around more, such as taking the stairs to get a little more everyday exercise,” Anna explains.

What can be done in my workplace to achieve more environmental solutions?

“The most important thing is to try to save energy. But it is not always possible for individuals to influence this. Buildings are often managed by experts using sophisticated systems. Waste management, however, is something that everyone can make a contribution to. Make sure you create a great waste sorting system so that plastics, paper and food waste can be separated, at a minimum. A lot of waste is generated by lunch boxes when eating in the office, for example, and the environmental benefit from sorting this waste is considerable,” Anna concludes.