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Paradigm Shift: Delivering the latest innovative buildings

Hong Kong Blog Innovative Building 1536x1040

With the rapid development of new technology and changing mindsets to sustainable lifestyles, office buildings must change to meet new tenant and user demands. New buildings cannot solely rely on energy savings and improved efficiency to attract top tier occupiers; now, owners and landlords need to focus on innovative practices around hardware as well as users’ wellbeing and experience. They need to create innovative building features that deliver unique and inspiring user experiences, which in turn help companies win and retain top talent.


By focusing on well-being and placing users’ experience in a built environment at the core of its design, rather than simply emphasizing energy cost reduction for a building, the industry is experiencing a paradigm shift. The emphasis on health and wellness have led to organizations seeing improved employee productivity, engagement, and retention, as well as reduced absenteeism and ultimately cost savings in their operations.

The emergence of the WELL Building Standard in 2014 - a great indicator of this paradigm shift, is a premier standard for buildings, interior spaces, and communities seeking to implement, validate, and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.

As with many other paradigm shifts, the evolution of innovative building designs has come in stages. The following are key features or focal points for Innovative Buildings 1.0 and Innovative Buildings 2.0.


Energy efficiency:

  • Natural ventilation
  • Solar panel installation
  • Reduced lighting power density
  • Temperature and humidity control for air conditioning

Water savings:

  • Reduction of water pressure
  • Recycling of rain water
  • Flow restrictors at water taps

Waste reduction:

  • Construction waste management
  • Solid waste source separation



Physical and mental health:

  • Community areas and roof/indoor gardens
  • Integrated sports facilities
  • Sleeping pods

Built environment:

  • Noise cancelling acoustical ceiling systems
  • Flexible LED Lighting (light spectrum that can be altered enabling the use of more user-friendly lighting)
  • Auto-regulating room lighting, humidity and temperature
  • Dynamic glass cuts down energy costs / improves well-being of office workers

Convenience and user experience:

  • Property-app (providing property management concierge services, parking spaces and taxi queue monitoring, issue/complaint reporting to the facilities team, easy navigation within the building, and enabling tenants to book spaces and participate in business and social networking)
  • Various smart devices are manageable over the property-app (smart lockers, food delivery arrival notification, smart visitor registration, security control)
  • Facial recognition for access control



Co-working and flexible workspaces had their finger on the pulse in terms of innovative features. Creating the best possible working environments for each individual tenant/user and keeping up to date with these features has been a point of differentiation. For example, nakedHub (now acquired by WeWork) based its operations around health and wellness. They also developed a smart app for users to monitor meeting room availability, gain rewards from the utilization of different spaces in the office, and to take part in community-based events.

As the nature of co-working and flexible workspaces evolves, we see a greater integration of these spaces into everyday offices and landlord portfolios. The ‘Flex and Core’ model incorporates a mix of regular office space, dedicated flexible workspace from an outside provider, as well as space designed and managed by the provider, but purely for the landlord/tenant’s use. While this model is still in its infancy stages, it is certainly the start of a revolution in the way office buildings are conceived, designed, and managed.

While innovative design features in Hong Kong office buildings often stay behind the curve, there are instances of properties installing items not commonly seen in other buildings. For example, NEO – a Grade A development in the Kowloon East CBD, features CO2 air purifiers to improve both wellness and comfort in the built environment. Other buildings have installed special treated glass to improve lighting or have installed sun shading fins around the building to limit the amount of sun exposure the building gets. The China Life Centre and Cheung Kei Centre have installed solar powered lights with plants in them to both save energy and include biophilia in the workspace, and Goldin Financial Centre has motion-controlled lights which switch off automatically.


One Taikoo Place

One Taikoo Place is a unique example of an innovative building. Part of Swire’s flagship Taikoo development in Quarry Bay, One Taikoo Place is currently the developer’s prized building – benefiting from several new state of the art design features and rated with BEAM Plus Platinum, LEED Platinum and WELL Gold. It has CO2 and air purifiers fitted throughout, the air-conditioning units are fresh water cooled and fitted with UV lights to inhibit mold growth, there are photo-voltaic panels on the roof of the building to reduce energy consumption, and vending machines provide health-conscious foods.

Other innovative aspects come from the building’s incorporation to the Swire Taikoo hub, items like ‘smart’ escalators which slow down to reduce energy consumption when not in use. Perhaps one of the most innovative features, is the use of a series of connected covered walkways, which are air-conditioned to allow tenants and visitors to walk between buildings in the Swire Taikoo hub while remaining indoors. This walkway also provides access to the nearby Quarry Bay MTR station as well as the Taikoo MTR station through Cityplaza.

K11 Atelier

Slated to open its doors in Q4 2019, K11 ATELIER King’s Road is New World Developments’ latest office building project in the Island East district and a prime example of a next generation work-space solution in Hong Kong.

The building has 28 floors with pure office use with both premium office and flexible work spaces (440,000 sq m), and a variety of F&B options on the ground floor. Target tenants include MNCs and first-class institutions, who will have access to a design built on principles of spiritual and physical wellness, productivity and success, culture and creativity, as well as team building; all geared towards amplifying cross collaboration and global connections in the workplace and providing elevated experiences.

Many key features representing further steps towards an improved user experience are introduced in this building, making it the world’s first building to have achieved the WELL Building Standard’s (core and shell) and Platinum level (i.e., highest) pre-certification.

Key building features include:

  • A 200m running trail on the roof top and additional fitness facilities
  • Wind turbine and solar panel installation on the roof top (partially supporting the building’s energy consumption (approx. 1.3%)
  • Acoustic intrusion and glare preventive light
  • Thermal and olfactory comfort (based on computational fluid dynamics analysis, a micro-climate modifier is designed to enhance the thermal comfort and maximize the usable period of seating areas)
  • Urban farming (aimed for building occupants) and healthy food vending machines
  • Food waste is collected and converted into fertilizer for compost
  • Incorporation of various seating options (e.g. Sky garden)
  • Demand-response ventilation
  • Water recycling / drip-type irrigation system / rain-water harvesting / low-flow fixtures
  • Smart metering service provided to tenants who are interested in receiving support to reduce energy use and waste generation
  • Wellness and cultural activities
  • Ceilingreen® drop-off area as well as partial green walls.

Even the construction process and waste management have been designed to reduce the environmental impact. New World Development allocated about 20% of its material costs on regional supplies (excluding furniture and mechanical, electrical and plumbing or MEP materials) to reduce its carbon footprint. Furthermore, about 70% of the construction waste (excluding excavation waste) was recycled and diverted from landfills (based on BEAM Plus and LEED requirements to minimize the building’s environmental impact).


We expect innovative building features to continue to evolve along with the emergence of new technologies. Still, while building owners continue to focus and adopt the latest technologies in building design and operational efficiency to stay ahead of the competition, trends have demonstrated that a user-centric approach to building and environment designs has become crucial. This includes a focus on health and wellness as means to attract and retain key tenants and talent – as occupiers become more aware of the benefits from these features.

A human centered design involving health and well-being principles, paired with the increasing accessibility of the Internet of Things and a more widespread use of technology will result in more controllable and customizable spaces. Building Innovation 3.0 is likely to feature built environments that better suit the needs and wants of its end users in specific and targeted manners, while continuing to change the way buildings are designed, constructed, and fitted out.