The importance of materials in office design and refurbishment

Design, refurbishment and implementation of a water infrastructure company office (4)2

In the early 1970s, the so-called Sick Buildings Syndrome emerged, but it was not until 1982 that it was recognised as a disease by the World Health Organisation.

To be specific, it is not a disease of buildings but of their occupants. The WHO defines it as the set of discomforts and illnesses that a building causes in its occupants and whose origin is derived from the environmental conditions of the building.

If we focus on office buildings, the evolution of their design has led to the so-called "intelligent buildings" characterised by energy savings, security, convenience and comfort for workers. However, if we add to this airtightness the presence of other factors linked to technology such as computers, printers, photocopiers and the materials used both in the refurbishment and decoration of the offices, harmful effects on health are generated if there is not a correct air renewal system.

In our way of life we spend a large part of our time in enclosed spaces.

We should not forget that some studies show that indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air and in our way of life we spend a large part of our time indoors.

Refurbishment and implementation of coworking offices Madrid (4)
Natural materials such as wood provide quality and warmth to spaces.

At Antana, we seek to avoid these conditions in the design and execution of office refurbishment, for which we analyse the factors most commonly cited as responsible for the syndrome, which are:

  • Chemical agents: including formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, dust, fibres, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, etc.
  • Biological agents: bacteria, fungi, spores, toxins, mites.
  • Physical agents: lighting, noise, vibrations, thermal environment, relative humidity, ventilation.

When tackling a project for the design, renovation and refurbishment of workspaces, we focus on two main factors to solve this problem: the installations and the materials of the offices. For the regulation of air renewal conditions, humidity, noise and installations, there are regulations that we can rely on, which guarantee that the interior conditions of the spaces are ideal, but as far as the choice of materials is concerned, it depends more on the architect's criteria.

Office design and refurbishment
The choice of materials is paramount to safeguarding the well-being of our employees.

We must replace conventional materials with natural and quality products.

Fortunately, when designing an office there is an increasing number of natural and sustainable materials, which are alternatives to the materials that are commonly used, such as wood and natural stone, clay, photocatalytic paint that helps to eliminate air pollution and is equivalent to having two trees inside the space, hemp, natural fibre textiles or bio-led lighting. We must replace conventional materials with natural and quality products, we just have to be aware of the dangers of the materials we live with on a daily basis.

How do we do it?   

  • Wood floors, replacing polyurethane varnishes, mineral oils, bitumen or parquet glues with natural, non-toxic varnishes, lasures or oils, linoleum floors.
  • With floors made of traditional materials, whether continuous lime, earth or even natural plaster or terracotta tiles, hydraulic tiles or natural stone.
  • Paints: with alternatives such as lime, silicate, clay. There is also a wide range of natural pigment colours that can be used as additives to these paints.
  • With photocatalytic paint that helps eliminate air pollution and is the equivalent of having two trees inside your home
  • With wall coatings based on earth, lime or plaster, either as a finishing material or as a base material. Natural water repellents based on linseed oil, potassium silicate and others are available for wet areas.
  • With absorbent elements based on natural fibres, special mention should be made of magnesite-bonded wood chip boards, which are free of toxic substances and provide high-quality sound-absorbing ceilings.
  • Thermal insulation without toxic substances, such as wood fibre, cork, straw, hemp... Even in the form of insulation blankets, many of these materials have the capacity to absorb sound and vibration, making them very useful for acoustic insulation.
  • Textiles Some alternative textile materials can be natural fibres such as hemp, linen, silk, sisal, cotton...
  • Lighting: Install bioled lighting.

At Antana, we will be delighted to offer you all our experience and commitment to help you with the design, decoration and refurbishment of your offices.

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