Chair: Steven Henry, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat


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Michael George

Michael George

Regional Director, Head of Premium Asset Group, Office - Asia Pacific
“Creating Socially Engaging Tall Buildings within their Communities”

Session Summary

This session explored an array of social issues, with two presentations highlighting a new generation of socially sustainable office towers that incorporate meaningful community connections, and actually enhance worker productivity. These new buildings are functionally optimized, promoting greater activity onsite and integrating seamlessly with the public realm. A third presentation offered insight on how occupant feedback and public dialogue translates into actionable design criteria, focusing specifically on the subtropical climate of Brisbane, a city of one million.

Michael George, Regional Director, JLL, presented on the possibilities for integrating people’s social and professional spaces seamlessly in new, vibrant spaces. He opened by vividly painting a picture of the modern office building, designed to be responsive to the requirements of a contemporary office worker. He emphasized that a new generation of buildings for the modern worker should create “interesting, engaging, and fun places which focus on the people whom inhabit the building, creating socially engaging communities in and around tall buildings and ultimately yielding in a higher quality of experience for the user. This, while also intelligently creating an optimal working space enabling workers to be as productive as possible.” To illustrate his points, Michael George talked in-depth about a massive urban renewal project in Sydney, the 320,000-square-meter commercial hub called the Barangaroo Precinct. He concluded by saying , “the new paradigm of tall buildings is recognizing the vital role they play in shaping communities and cities.”

Timothy Johnson, Design Partner, NBBJ, continued with the theme of office buildings needing to evolve to meet the needs of a new generation of professionals. He offered a brief historical overview of the tall office building, starting with their arrival in the 1920s, noting that buildings of the era were “austere, column-free interior spaces . . . with little or no access to daylight.” In contrast, Johnson emphasized that millennials and the younger “Generation Z” have drastically different work styles, and require a new kind of office building that allows for a great deal of flexibility in the office space. Rather than all open or all enclosed spaces, Johnson advocated for a third way incorporating “activity-based spaces.” Johnson offered his perspective that “Architecture 2.0 – was about sustainability and building efficiency, whereas Architecture 3.0 is about human performance.”

Rosemary Kennedy, Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, closed the session with a different kind of presentation, offering up academic research on how residents prefer to interact with public space. Kennedy explored whether private and shared open spaces contribute to positive or negative perceptions of livability for apartment buildings in a subtropical urban context, surveying numerous subjects in her study. Among other discoveries, she found that tenants preferred shared outdoor space to private outdoor space, as it amplifies a sense of community. Kennedy theorizes, “I found that millennials are looking for less personal space, and more social space, and I think this could be because personal space is declining so quickly.”

Session Photo Gallery