What to Know About Green Tenant Amenities

09/17/2019 | By Janelle Penny

smoothie bikeTenant amenities are a crucial piece in the tenant retention and recruitment puzzle, but they can also double as a step toward your green certification efforts.

Employees intuitively respond to healthy workplace features like green space and natural materials. Applying this rule to your building amenities makes financial sense because it creates an environment that attracts people to your building.

(Photo: Smoothie Bike; Credit: Charm City Concierge)

“Integrating sustainable practices is good for business,” explains Tina Urquhart, president and CEO of Charm City Concierge, a concierge service and amenity provider for facilities and multifamily buildings. “Design needs to embody health and happiness. If you can keep your employees happy and engaged, they’re more productive at work.”

Why Tenant Amenities are Important

People are looking for convenience, Urquhart explains. The ability to meet personal needs without having to leave work is a compelling reason to work for certain employers or rent an apartment in a particular building.

Ruben Mejia, CTO of SportsArt, a fitness equipment manufacturer that offers cardio equipment that generates electricity, describes an installation at 123 Melrose St. in Brooklyn’s hip Bushwick neighborhood. The luxury apartment building puts its sustainability credibility front and center with a treehouse in the lobby.

“They’re doing everything to reinforce a sustainability message,” he explains. “[Energy-generating exercise equipment] is a way for them to engage with their tenants. They can bring them on a tour and say, ‘Hey, the other gyms you’re going to will just consume electricity, but our gym offsets the electricity of this building.’ The biggest thing is differentiation—what are you doing that everybody else is not, or that most people are not?”

In tenanted office buildings, providing on-site convenience services also benefits the employers renting space there.

Employees who can take care of their needs on site don’t have to spend their lunch break running errands or rush to reach important services before they close for the day. Amenities in common areas also let tenants dedicate more of their own square footage to offices and other work-related spaces.

“You want to have the bulk of whatever you’re putting into your office spaces being the workhorse of your platform,” explains Guy Painchaud, partner at iN STUDIO, a Toronto-based interior design firm. “Obviously you want to have a great coffee space, but the majority of people’s time should be in your office. …. You can give them another space where they can go to unwind, take some time by themselves or have a chat with a colleague.”

Energy Exercise Sports Art
(Photo: Energy Exercise SportsArt)

The emphasis on amenities may be due to the growing presence of millennials (people born between 1981-1996) in the workplace. Millennials now make up about a third of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center, and they prefer amenities that appeal to their desire for health, happiness and purpose, Urquhart says.

“Amenities that appeal to the millennial mindset are more holistic,” Urquhart explains. “One client has an outdoor area they branded as the backyard. Wellness rooms are big. So are green spaces, rooftops and lounges where they can stock the space with locally sourced produce and that kind of thing. Bike storage is a big one because a lot of people bike to work.”

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How to Get Started

Not every green amenity is a fit for every building. Select amenities based on your building type and tenant makeup. You can even survey existing tenants to find out what they’d like to see or what needs they’re not able to meet on-site yet. Painchaud starts projects with a visioning conversation between designers and clients to discover which amenities and design features are the best fit.

“We don’t necessarily have a kit of parts [to use for clients],” Painchaud says. “We always want to engage with the client to give them a unique solution. It’s a one-off story to tell that’s specific to their building or company.”

Backyard
(Photo: “Buildings competing for the best tenant companies are using nature, green space and outdoor amenities to show they care about their tenants’ wellbeing,” explains Tina Urquhart, president and CEO of Charm City Concierge.)

You don’t need a permanent dedicated space for every tenant amenity. Look at underutilized spaces you can upgrade or large common areas where you can host occasional events, Urquhart recommends.

Blooms and Bubbly Charm City Concierge
(Photo: Blooms & Bubbly; Credit: Charm City Concierge)

You can also use amenity-oriented programming to highlight year-round services you offer; for example, if you’re trying to increase awareness of your building’s green cleaning program, you could offer green auto detailing for a day or two or hand out trial-size samples of green cleaning products.

[Related: Having Fun at Work: The Facility’s Key Role]

“We do pop-up shops all the time. If you can bring those things on-site and introduce that to your tenants, they’re seeing you as keeping their amenities up to date,” says Urquhart. “Maybe you don’t have a big state-of-the-art fitness center, but we could do a whole wellness program for the day once a quarter where an acupuncturist comes in or people do virtual meditation.”

Yoga on the roof
(Photo: Fitness spaces are popular with tenants, but making sure you have the right location is key. The rooftop made a great option for yoga at this Brookfield Properties building; participants have a view of the Washington Monument while they work out. Credit: Charm City Concierge)

YogaThe key to using multipurpose spaces in that way is picking the right location for the right activity, Urquhart adds. For example, yoga classes are a fun and functional amenity that doesn’t require a fitness studio, but you also can’t just put it anywhere.

(Photo: Different types of fitness activities need different spaces. Yoga requires concentration and focus, so its best not to put a yoga class next to a loud game room or breakroom. Credit: Charm City Concierge)

“One of the things that ties back to sustainability is wanting to do it in a place with light, good air quality and not a lot of noise,” Urquhart says. “You don’t want to put a yoga class where you’re trying to zen out next to a game room with ping pong tables and a lot of stuff going on. Those considerations are big.”

It may be time to reexamine your amenities if you haven’t upgraded them in the last five years, suggests Igor Kurochkin, vice president of marketing and product management for Winncom Technologies Corp., a distributor and provider of networking solutions.

Advances in technology since then might make it easier or less expensive to keep your amenity offerings fresh.

“You need to always be innovating to remain competitive,” Urquhart says. “You don’t need to build a big conference space every year or rip down your walls and change it all out, but you always have to be innovating. It’s coming up with new ideas, new engagement plans, taking those spaces and repurposing them for other things.”

4 Important Considerations for Tenant Amenity Upgrades

Implementing building amenities of any kind requires a long look at how to launch the new amenities. Take these four points into consideration as you figure out which green amenities to put in your building and where.

1. A way to measure success.

Technology is key, Urquhart says. You need a reliable way to gather data and understand which services and amenities are being used or ignored. That will help you find areas you can rework or replace. Tenant surveys are also useful in understanding what people want and need from your building.

“Also bring fresh new ideas to them, because sometimes they don’t know what they want,” Urquhart says of tenant surveys. “Be proactive.”

Backyard amenities
(Photo: The Backyard at Virginias Valo Park office campus features an outdoor gaming area with a bocce court, horseshoes, bag toss, a fire pit and more. Amenity manager Charm City Concierge manages the Backyards community garden and hosts happy hours, concerts, movie nights, races and other programming. Credit: Charm City Concierge)

2. Balance between space types.

The game rooms and on-site gyms are valuable amenities, but people need quiet spaces too. These could take the form of walking paths, sheltered outdoor areas or meditation spaces away from the louder parts of the building. Some of Painchaud’s projects have even included prayer spaces.

3. Spaces that are suited to the amenity.

Make sure you’re selecting areas that have the right infrastructure in place for the amenity you plan to put there. The vendors of any new equipment you’re ordering can help select spaces. For example, Mejia cautions customers to put their exercise equipment in rooms that have rigid flooring, an adequate number of circuits and a high enough ceiling to accommodate a tall person on an elliptical.

[On topic: 5 Trending Tenant Amenity Ideas for Your Facility]

Fitness spaces also need extra attention paid to the HVAC to make sure the room is adequately ventilated and doesn’t feel hot when people are working up a sweat.

4. Low maintenance needs.

Indoor greenery is consistently popular because it provides a much-needed connection to the natural world, but Painchaud has strayed away from living walls for many clients because of the potential for mold and live dirt to cause problems if the client doesn’t have a strict maintenance schedule for the plants.

Instead, some clients are exploring extra low-maintenance plants like moss, which provides some filtration and humidity control but requires little to no maintenance, Painchaud says. Plant systems with charcoal filters are another alternative to plants with live dirt.

Implemented correctly, your amenities will refresh your building and highlight your commitment to your tenants and the environment.

“Everybody needs to have a conversation about what can be done for their environment on multiple levels,” says Kurochkin. “Look at what you have and understand what needs to be done. If you don’t do that now, you’re going to fall behind.”

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