A new mass timber-framed office building – the first of its kind in Western Australia – is coming up in Fremantle with an aim to deliver one of the state’s healthiest and happiest workplaces.

Developed by Yolk Property Group in partnership with Harris Jenkins Architects and Josh Byrne and Associates, the six-storey commercial development combines several sustainable design features with natural materials to ensure a green environment for its future occupants.

Located on the corner of Josephson and High Streets, Harbour by Yolk will use a number of materials from natural sources both during construction and fitout, and an abundance of plant life would be incorporated into the design, on the exterior as well as the interior.

Yolk Property Group director Pete Adams says, “Office workers spend around eight hours a day indoors, often in offices that lack adequate sunlight and fresh air while being surrounded by manmade materials like plastic – this really isn’t a healthy environment. In contrast, studies have shown workplaces that utilise natural materials like wood, incorporate plant life and allow for natural light, result in happier and more productive employees.

“Our aim with this project is not just to develop a highly sustainable building but to create an environment that has a positive impact on those within it. We want to reimagine the idea of an office, producing spaces that employees will enjoy spending time in.”

Yolk and project partners presented research on mass timber construction highlighting the dual benefits on the environment as well as the occupants to support the approval process for the ambitious development.

“Timber is one of the most sustainable materials available and has also been shown to boost productivity and mood, with research indicating satisfaction and wellbeing in the workplace are improved with the inclusion of wood and other natural materials,” Adams says.

A research paper on the subject titled Workplaces: Wellness + Wood = Productivity, produced by strategic market research firm Pollinate and the University of Canberra, was released at the Green Cities conference in March.

The study surveyed 1,000 indoor Australian office workers and revealed how natural-looking and timber surfaces in the workplace, along with the use of natural elements indoors such as stone, wood, water features, plants and natural light, contributed to enhanced employee wellbeing and satisfaction, leading to higher productivity.

City of Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the development was a unique and welcome addition to the commercial offering in Fremantle.

“This project, while having a small footprint, will have a large positive social and environmental impact. It is an example of a development using sustainability and innovation to create positive outcomes for the community,” Pettitt says.

“Some of the initiatives incorporated in the development are new and untrialled in a commercial setting and will require us, together with Yolk and project partners, to develop strata by-laws to support the energy, water, transport and urban green initiatives for owners and tenants,” he added.

Harbour by Yolk

A major design highlight of the green development is a dense vertical garden across more than half of the building’s exterior in addition to an operable glass façade to circulate fresh air and deliver maximum sunlight to all levels ensuring all occupants are close to a natural light source.

Additional sustainability features include a solar photovoltaic and battery storage system; sub-metering of electricity and water for each tenancy with demand management software and visualisation; storm and grey water collection, distribution and recycling; and a new commercial greywater system using filtration and ozone disinfection to recycle shower and hand basin water to the planters in the green façade.

Harbour by Yolk will offer 1895sqm of office space and 150sqm for a café/bar/retail offering. Strata spaces range from 57sqm to full floors of 380sqm. The project is expected to be completed mid-2020.