When designing the new Axis head office in Lund, sustainability and esthetics were vital. But most importantly, the primary focus was on employee health and well-being. And with the employees having now moved into their new workplace, the response has been positive.
“It was a long and fun journey,” reflects Åsa Krantz, architect and interior designer. “From the very start, it was imperative that the Axis core values and company culture permeated the house. When designing the interior and choosing the right fixtures and furnishings, we aimed to create a work environment that is both creative and inspiring and will make the employees proud. Feedback suggests we have succeeded.”
The team from the architect’s office, Landén + Krantz in Lund, got involved early in the process. They worked closely with Axis to conceptualize all the requirements and wishes that Axis Facilities department had collected from various stakeholders.
“There was close collaboration throughout the project,” Åsa says. “The architect’s office Fojab was in charge of the overall house design, including the exterior and the outdoor environment, and we focused on the interior design. The lighting design and consulting studio Light Bureau also played an important role in the lighting design.”
Captured the Axis spirit
Louise Dolck Strömberg, HR Director at Axis, says that, “We had very high ambitions. To create a modern and high-grade work environment was a top priority. We continuously involved employees and other stakeholders in various working teams in getting a bottom-up perspective.”
It was crucial to creating something that would stand the test of time, not only sustainably, but also esthetically.
“It was essential to strike a balance between trendy and classical when choosing materials, furniture, and color schemes,” Louise says. “Åsa and her team splendidly managed to capture the Axis spirit. There is modesty, but at the same time, the building radiates freshness and individuality. And many solutions promote employee health and wellness.”
The important first impression
“Creating various meeting places was at the top of the list,” Åsa says. “Axis has a strong Swedish ‘fika’ culture, so we had that in mind. We also wanted to create many other meeting places. Big ideas often come from spontaneous meetings.”
Creating a central hub was essential, and you step into it as you pass through the entrance doors. Your first impression is the great, light, and spacious atrium entrance hall encompassing the first (ground) floor and the second floor. The objective was to design something of a “company living room”.
Podium takes center stage
An impressive staircase leads up to the second floor with a 450-capacity restaurant, offices, and meeting rooms. From both the stairs and the second-floor balustrade, you have a beautiful view of the first floor where a podium with a tree, sofas, and comfortable chairs is a natural focal point.
“I’m very pleased with the podium,” Åsa says. “If we’d only put in some sofas, directly on the floor, people might have felt exposed. It has become a place where you can meet, work, or relax. But it can also be used as a stage for presentations or in other ways.”
Solutions to improve employee well-being
On the first floor are also a café area, an experience center showcasing Axis solutions, and more meeting rooms and offices. Throughout the project, it was vital to work with natural light, prioritizing the employees’ health. All offices in the building are positioned along the outer walls to let in the daylight.
For the same reason, there is a large, green open area in the middle of the building, and six terraces spread over the various floors. “The outdoors environment was essential in creating a house that focuses on the humane and well-being,” says Åsa. “If people want to, they can work or have their meetings outdoors.”
Meeting individual requirements
Going against prevailing interior design trends, Axis opted for a large number of individual offices. Linn Ahlström, Director Real Estate & Facilities at Axis, explains: “There is a majority of engineers in the workforce, and we know that many of them work better when they can do it undisturbed in their own rooms. We think it benefits both the employees and the company.”
However, there are individual offices, team rooms (2–8 persons), and landscapes (12–14 persons) with scrum areas that cater to peoples’ different tastes and needs.
“Diversity was central in our initial discussions. There should be something to fit everyone, and needs change over time,” says Åsa. “For example, hardly any of the 136 meeting rooms look the same. They cover everything from a 60-capacity auditorium to project rooms and quiet rooms.”
Sustainable and durable materials
The materials used in the building also reflect the Axis core values. “We wanted to create an inspiring and creative workplace that every Axis employee is proud of,” Linn says. “When choosing materials, furniture, and colors, the goal was to create an environment that feels timeless and durable for many years to come. We hope that employees here and from other offices across the world will feel right at home.”
The entrance hall floor is limestone from the Swedish island of Öland, and there are ash-wood wall panels. “These are durable and utilitarian materials,” Linn says. “There are ash-wood floors in large parts of the house that are hard-wearing and can be renovated. They are glued to the concrete to muffle any noise from walking.”
Assuring sustainability performance
With the Axis focus on the environment, there was no discussion about getting a third-party certification of the new building’s sustainability performance. Axis chose the British BREEAM system (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) in its Swedish adaption BREEAM-SE.
Used in more than 70 countries, BREEAM is the leading sustainability assessment and certification method in the world and has been used for more than 500,000 buildings. It encompasses the entire building life cycle, focusing on nine main categories, which in total cover some 130 aspects:
- Health and wellbeing
- Land use and ecology
The new building has been BREEAM-certified with the Excellent performance rating, the second-best possible. “It’s quite demanding, as you have to be good across the line. You can’t sub-optimize to get an Excellent rating,” says Jonny Ericson, from technical consultants WSP Sweden, who is the project BREEAM Assessor. WSP has also acted as the project Advisory Professional, coordinating and managing the process throughout the project and provided support.
Sustainability certification is the rule today, but chiefly if the building is put on the market or leased.
“It’s unusual if you’re going to use the building yourself. Axis’ decision is quite notable, and it shows that the company cares for its staff and the local environment as well as the environment in general.”
Smart ventilation improves the indoor climate
Ventilation – and its effect on the indoor air quality – is often a source of discontent among the people working in an office, even in new constructions. Axis went the extra mile to install smart ventilation in each room, with mechanical ventilation that features both supply and exhaust fans, not only the supply fans, which is often the case.
In addition to mechanical ventilation, there is also natural ventilation – not so common in these air-conditioned times - meaning that people can actually open the windows. There are sensors in the windowpanes that shut down the mechanical ventilation when opening the window, so that individuals and groups working in the room can adapt the ventilation to their preferences.
Getting the required thermal comfort also includes passive design solutions, such as having a white façade, the wedge-shaped fins on the façade that deflects the sunlight part of the day and, choosing the right windowpanes.
Designed for energy efficiency
Buildings consume vast amounts of energy. For example, in 2018, it was estimated that residential and commercial sectors accounted for roughly 40 percent of the entire US energy consumption. Unsurprisingly, energy optimization is a BREEAM top priority. Axis has chosen to install solar panels on the roof, which will contribute energy to the operation of the building. Any surplus energy will be sold to the grid.
At the planning stage, there were long discussions about choosing the right energy source. The final decision was to connect to the Lund Municipality district heating network and a proven local solution, which represented an energy-efficient alternative, especially as Axis uses green district heating.
Other energy-reducing solutions include motion sensor LED lighting in the entire building and an advanced Building Management System (BMS) that makes it possible to monitor and measure the energy consumption for future improvement.
Evaluated the ecological value
Ericson says that a lot of environmental priorities have gone into the design of the building. “For the employees, there will be superior indoor climate and comfort, which I, personally, feel is the big advantage of this building,” he says. “It’s also worth mentioning that before construction started, Axis had a university biologist examine the grounds and the vegetation to evaluate the ecological value.”
The ecologist then suggested solutions for new ecology and to maintain the biodiversity of the site. For example, there are so-called rain gardens, shallow depressions that will temporarily hold rainwater runoff, with native shrubs and flowers. With the original inhabitants in mind, there are even insect hotels in the courtyard and the grounds.
One category where Axis got many BREEAM points is transport. Apart from being close to traffic routes and public transport, there are also some 540 parking spaces for bicycles. Not so strange in a city that has been voted Sweden's best bicycle city several times. All new Axis employees receive a bike and as many employees ride their bikes to work, Axis also decided to install ventilated lockers in the changing rooms to keep things more hygienic.
Employees are impressed
After moving in employees quickly started to settle into their new environment. Aditya Hendra and Gabriel Jönsson work as ASIC verification engineers. Their team is on the sixth floor.
The new work environment feels very light, spacious, and airy, says Gabriel: “We used to sit in an open landscape, and as the team grew, we were packed like sardines. It could get quite noisy. The new house is so much more inspiring; your mood and work improve.”
Having your own room feels quite luxurious. And you don’t have to worry about getting disturbed or disturbing someone else. “Now, I can concentrate better, even without using noise cancellers from headphones, which helps my productivity."
Opportunities for chats and discussions
Gabriel and Aditya like that there are many different meeting places. “There are many rooms to collaborate and meet with your colleagues, and not only for working,” Aditya says.
Gabriel is impressed by the outdoor terraces. “It feels good to have your lunch outside.”
Aditya has visited the tenth floor to take in the view from the top floor. It offers a magnificent view of Lund, and you can even see the Öresund Bridge (yes, that bridge).
“It’s impressive,” he says. “You can probably even make out Copenhagen. I also especially like the courtyard on the third floor with trees and a garden. It is beautiful.”
Axis head office has become an award-winning building. It was appointed The most attractive office in Sweden 2020 by Real Estate Sweden, and it received Lund’s City Building Award 2020 with the following comments from the judges:
“A powerful new building has been created in Lund. The building marks the gateway to Ideon's business district and this white and tallest figure is another landmark in the city. The symbolic value of an important head office being located here is important for the urban development that is taking place in Lund.
With great skill, the architects have handled the design of a large building through graphic facade design and well-balanced volume, something that can be appreciated from both near and far.
Inside, the building offers inspiring and exemplary office environments. The feeling of warmth and humanity permeates the execution where flexibility, durability and well-being characterize every detail.
Such a well-executed project requires a creative collaboration between clients and architects, where a high level of ambition and a common goal guarantee a beautiful and functional end result.”
Axis new head office, Lund