Designing Sustainable Spaces

Futurespace is an architectural and interior design firm with head offices based in Sydney and Melbourne. Named with the future of built environments in mind, Futurespace is committed to building working spaces, living spaces, and learning spaces that reflect the physical environment and what is happening in the world around us.

The company was founded in 2001 by Registered ArchitectStephen Minnett. In 2009, Stephen was joined by Managing Director and Interior Designer Angela Ferguson. Angela has a Bachelor of Arts from RMIT University in Melbourne, and ran her own business – Ferguson Design Studios – for six years before merging with Futurespace. In that role, she delivered important projects for clients such as Qantas and Google.

Angela was drawn to Futurespace due to the diverse, talented group of people that made up the company’s team. She also believed in the company’s mission to create “intelligent, practical environments that inspire and add value.”
“When I was thinking about my profession, I realized that I would not like to be in a hideous, dark, dingy office with no fresh air,” she says. “I wanted to be a part of a career where I could design an environment that supports the human factor of what people who spend eight to ten hours in the office do.”

According to Angela, that’s what Futurespaceaccomplishes with each and every one of their projects. She says they are continually motivated by “a passion for understanding the future of built environments,” and how it can influence people in a positive or negative way.

Changing Client’s Lives

Over the years, Futurespace has worked with a long list of satisfied clients, and delivered a wide variety of successful projects throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. According to Angela, they have achieved that success by truly understanding their client’s needs – which means going beyond the aesthetics of a building to address the business goals within the office environment.

“If everyone is sitting in offices with no sightline to each other, we provide the solution to get people to talk and collaborate,” says Angela. “It is not about the colours and chairs. It’s about providing a unique response to the client’s needs. It’s not something you can pick out of a magazine.”

According to Angela, Futurespace has the ability to provide those unique solutions because they have the right team in place.

“Our employees are a great bunch of people,” she says. “Everyone is collaborative; we respect each other, work hard, and remain communicative. We have group huddles where all our projects are up on the board, and anyone can speak up if they need help.”

Angela also says that there is a lot of shared knowledge that goes across the studio. She says their employees are passionate about design and the value it can add to people’s lives—and clients directly benefit from such enthusiasm.

“80 per cent of our work is repeat business, and that’s because clients choose to work with us again and again. It’s a collaborative relationship with our clients and it’s all about the team together on the project. There if no hierarchy when it comes to having the client with our team.”

Green Spaces Ahead

From a sustainability standpoint, Angela says that the design industry can be quite wasteful, with most buildings having a lifespan of just five to ten years before ending up in the landfill. However, with Futurespace’seco-friendly and sustainable buildings, the client is guaranteed a longer building lifespan.

“We want to have a positive impact on the world around us, not just on a human design level, but also on the environment,” Angela says.

Recently, Futurespace worked with Jones Lang LaSalle to design their Sydney Office Headquarters—a project which received a six star green star rating from the Green Star Building Council of Australia. This type of rating is one of the hardest to achieve as it involves the highest level of sustainability in building and efficiency.

“We did all the usual things we do in terms of production of energy efficient products and materials for sustainability such as the use of natural light and proper heating and cooling areas, but we also used the Work Smart program of JLL’s, which is relatively new to the Australian market,” says Angela.

The Work Smart features in the JLL Sydney office include the acoustic tiles, which were agile and flexible enough to be used on ceilings to absorb high levels of sounds. Other features include the ergonomic chairs that meet the standards of the Good Environmental Choice Australia checklist, and the glazed, portable walls that can be moved accordingly to office needs over time.

“For us, it was an important part of the process to work with the client every step of the way,” Angela says. “We met weekly with the client to discuss the issues of the project in real time. The end result is really the success of the process, teamwork, and open communication throughout.”

“The overall look was quite sophisticated from an aesthetic initiative,” she adds. “It’s very elegant and grown up compared to the work going around that is more of a Mickey Mouse, cartoon style.”

Futurespace has also completed the Schneider Electric Building, which has earned a five star Green Star rating from the GBCA. For the concept, Angela says they had to keep in mind that it was more of a traditional office than that of JLL, but still needed to be designed consciously to accommodate the flow of people coming in and out. They also had the challenge of using Schneider’s own energy products in the building.

“After carefully considering what they do, we wanted to showcase Schneider’s efficient use of energy to their staff and clients,” says Angela. “We designed the building around the company and their innovations,” says Angela.
Notably, the building won the 2014 Australian Living Green Interior award in the Office Category—an accolade that speaks to the high level of environmental planning.

Every part of the building – from the finishes, to the materials, and the furniture – is designed and installed to allow the maximum amount of natural light in the building. According to Angela, the outcome is a healthy enjoyable environment that was achieved through understanding the client’s needs in the planning process.

“Not only did we address the physical environment, but we had to reflect their business, their culture, and any objectives that could arise. You have to see what challenges the business can face, and how different work styles and career objects can happen inthe same space.”

The focus on environmentally sustainable projects is important to Angela and Futurespace because of a shared Australian culture, and her own upbringing in the outdoors. “I think it’s a very Australian thing to be connected to the outdoors,” says Angela. “I have always been connected to it, but now I realize that many of our surroundings are quite artificial.”

“I went to a David Suzuki Talk where he said how American Indians would design for the next 200 years with future generations in mind, which is something that was expressed inherently. So we now have to do the best we can to deliver sustainable solutions before we end up like the movies where people are overweight, the earth is polluted, and no one can survive.”

A Eco-Friendly Future

Moving forward, Angela says thatFuturespace wants to diversify their services, and design workspaces that go beyond the office. “Homes, hub spaces, group spaces, squares, and lobbies are now activated as work spaces and training spaces for organizations or gathering spots if need be,” says Angela. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Angela hopes that the diversity of workspaces will give Futurespace the opportunity to work with clients in large corporations, as well as businesses, however, they must keep in mind the unknown.

“Technology is changing faster than we can imagine, and it has a huge influence on how much people work. It’s futuristic and the possibilities are unknown, but it provides us a really big chance to see how architecture and the built environment can be designed for 24/7 use.”