In general, office buildings suffer from a low utilisation rate and low user satisfaction. To support SSA Group in developing the environment of the perfect workday, VTT measured and adjusted the working conditions of the VALO Hotel & Work concept. The resulting multipurpose facility improves employee satisfaction, increases the building’s utilisation rate and generates extra revenue.
Easy office solution for organisations
High building utilisation rate tackles climate change and brings extra revenue
Improved employee efficiency and satisfaction
Founded in 2012, SSA Group is a company that aims to anticipate future changes in housing and accommodation. Part of this mission is the VALO Hotel & Work concept, where SSA Group promises to offer the best workday in the world – even amid the Covid-struck work culture.
Inflexible offices detrimental to well-being and utilisation rate
Even before the remote work trend caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the utilisation rate of office buildings was only 8%. Considering that buildings are the source of up to 40% of the CO2 emissions globally, underused offices are a major problem.
At the same time, the well-being and efficiency of office workers is usually low. The popular choice, an open plan office, leaves employees prone to distractions and annoying noises without truly allowing free-flowing communication. Separate rooms without open spaces, on the other hand, lead to silos and a lack of communication.
SSA realised that during the same hours when the demand for office space peaks, hotel rooms are vacant. They started to develop a concept where you could both sleep and work without compromising either side.
We wanted to create a third option for work besides office and home. We also wanted to make it possible to sleep and work at the same place without having to spend time commuting.
VALO Hotel & Work is based on several different room types that all serve a specific work function. The workspaces range from individual hotel rooms and meeting rooms to media studios, lounges and quiet zones. Each space has unique requirements that have to be met during office hours, regardless of what is happening in the surrounding areas.
But how do you ensure that a multipurpose hotel provides the environment for a perfect workday? Through measurements and testing. This is where VTT came in.
Sensors guide the way towards the optimal work environment
In the VALO project, VTT has analysed data on how the following conditions affect the utilisation of the building and the efficiency and well-being of the workers:
- Volume: How soundproof are the rooms? What kind of activities are possible in specific areas of the hotel?
- Movement: Which of the rooms are free and which are occupied?
- CO2: How should the building automation be set up to support optimal CO2 levels?
- Temperature: How to keep the temperature within reference range in each space regardless of outside temperature?
- Humidity: How to keep optimal humidity level for both workers and the building?
“We used a live trumpet player to test how loud activities affect the volume in nearby spaces and confirmed the hypothesis that the soundproofing at VALO Hotel & Work is really good. We already knew that the interplay between temperature, CO2 level and humidity is a key factor in work efficiency. If even one of these factors is slightly outside reference range, people get tired and disoriented quickly. The same CO2 level makes the air feel stuffy if the temperature rises,” says Jouni Kaartinen, Senior Scientist at VTT.
Due to Covid, the testing had to be conducted largely remotely. The VTT team installed sensors and directed their data to a cloud where all the data could be analysed together. Researchers knew the threshold values for the tested variables but it was paramount to ensure that the data was interpreted and presented in a form that could be easily harnessed for the adjustment of building automation and energy consumption.
The data captured by VTT was incorporated into a larger project report that included topics such as human physiology, flexible multipurpose furniture and user surveys. These aspects were used to outline the conditions that serve efficient brainwork.
Ultimately, the building automation and spaces were adjusted to create comfortable and productive working conditions that serve the needs of different building users with minimum compromise.
The result is a versatile office space that also enables accommodation and events, along with providing recreational services, such as a spa section, gym and catering, for its users.
Higher utilisation of buildings has various benefits
The project validated SSA Group’s value proposition of offering a space for the best workday in the world. This has created several benefits, to individuals, businesses and the environment:
- Employee efficiency, health and satisfaction: Optimal working conditions enable employees to realise their potential. It also reduces churn and sick leaves. At VALO Hotel & Work, you can flexibly switch workspaces when your needs change, even if its five times a day.
- Employer workload: Creating a high-performance office space requires expertise. VALO Hotel & Work is a holistic service that removes the need for organisations to rent, furnish and maintain large offices. Every workspace is operated completely by the service provider, while employees and employers get to focus on their core business.
- More business: SSA Group now has a building that enables an unusually high utilisation rate. They have hotel customers outside the office hours and workers filling in the quieter hotel hours. This brings in more business and increases revenue per square metre.
- Climate change: VALO Hotel & Work paves the way for a world where buildings have more than one purpose. More efficient use of space helps reduce CO2 emissions by saving energy and resources.
- Research knowledge on brainwork: Effective office work is the result of a complex web of factors. This project has promoted an interdisciplinary approach to analyse the key elements of work efficiency and well-being.
Multipurpose buildings are the future
Covid has probably changed the way we work for good. This leaves huge office buildings even more underused than before.
SSA Group is actively looking for new properties that could be turned into multipurpose facilities. The consideration of all the factors required to smoothly increase utilisation rate requires further interdisciplinary research and continuous optimisation.
Despite the challenging Covid situation, VTT and SSA Group formed a solid team where ideas and questions were discussed openly: “We were already familiar with VTT’s research on supporting building utilisation rates to promote carbon neutrality. They really showcased their expertise by performing the measurements and data validation accurately and efficiently during Covid restrictions,” states Saari.
“VTT is always looking for projects where we can tackle climate change and bring concrete business value to our customers. In this project, we could offer services that supported the vision for the perfect workday. We are looking forward to other cross-sectoral projects that genuinely make a difference,” concludes Jouni Kaartinen.