Healthcare equipment, a design priority for new office buildings

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Architects are increasingly being asked to design spaces that provide an elevated work experience, such as health and wellness amenities, in an effort to attract workers to the office post-pandemic.

Ivanhoé Cambridge and Hines commissioned Gensler Architecture and Design Canada of Toronto to create two high-end fitness centers in the CIBC Square development.

“Our smartest clients were already thinking about it before the pandemic and given the success of projects such as The Current at CIBC Square, repositioning buildings to have amenities that will win the ride is key,” said Joy Charbonneau, Partner principal, design director at Gensler.

“We also designed the cousin of this project that will go to the North Tower when it’s finished. These two fitness centers are very similar, they both have a very high end look and feel.

The Current, located in the south tower, has the soothing elements of a spa and the quality of hospitality of a hotel. These boutique-style fitness centers have become a popular demand in recent months, Charbonneau said.

“I would say it’s because we’ve thought about our health and well-being so much over the past two years, so it’s only natural that it should be a top priority,” Charbonneau said, adding that the one in CIBC Square was very well received.

“When you think of companies that are also making progress on their ESG goals, resilience and sustainability really are a priority and spaces that promote health and well-being now get the best real estate spaces.”

Where Gyms used to be located in basements or lesser areas of the building, they are now getting prime locations.

“One way or another, our customers find space for them,” Charbonneau said. “We have another one in Calgary and the fitness center is on the top floor. The views are going to be amazing.

The new fitness center located in the north tower of CIBC Square will have one distinguishing feature: a workout staircase that connects the two floors.

“People will be able to do squat jumps on it, marathons up and down, and they can even use it as a place for community events and discussions because it’s also a multi-level hybrid seat,” said explained Charbonneau. “We needed a staircase anyway and said why not make it a feature so you can practice there too.

“At the top, you have to have a guardrail but no handrail and we added a handrail so that they can do barre exercises.”

One of the challenges of designing the space was that the client said it needed to be monochromatic.

“We couldn’t use color specifically because some of the tower businesses’ brands, color is very important to their corporate identity, so we didn’t want there to be any competition,” Charbonneau said.

The team started researching what natural materials could be incorporated into the project.

“We used maple wood for flooring, as wall finishes and as an accent ceiling finish,” Charbonneau said. “Maple is the wood you put in a gymnasium or a dance floor. It works great and has a really nice soft look.

“It paired really well with a charcoal and white palette in the main workout space. We were able to have a custom wallpaper created by the Canadian company Rollout. It has that diffuse fade from charcoal to white. The finishes of the floors are darker, there is this heaviness and then it is very uplifting and luminous on the ceiling.

What makes the space truly unique are the views.

“The main exercise room has a corner window. He looks across the yard to the city,” Charbonneau said. “It also overlooks the fourth floor green roof and there is an outside terrace where they can exercise.”

For Charbonneau, it is important to use artists, designers and furniture makers local to where you are building.

“I think it’s important to support your local creative culture in this way and it’s something that can make every project special,” Charbonneau said.

In addition to high-end fitness facilities, another trend is to integrate conference centers, or “experience centers,” into buildings.

“It’s all about supporting an ecosystem of workspaces both in and out of the office for people to thrive and do their jobs and reconnect with each other,” Charbonneau explained.

“These are often larger spaces that can accommodate a minimum of 150 people for special events and there is also this hospitality aspect that goes with it. It can be a place for them to celebrate their corporate culture, maybe even hold a special client event there.

Production rooms are also growing in popularity.

“We all do pre-recorded calls and panels. It still continues, providing a space that has great lighting, great acoustics for people to create content,” explained Charbonneau. “It’s not a big space, but it’s increasingly important now.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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