From marble-clad dressing rooms to luxe lounges with digital screens, end-of-trip facilities are much more than a few showers and bike racks in the basement.
Today’s end-of-trip facilities are a future-proofing strategy for owners to retain tenants and secure new ones, and a way for tenants themselves to encourage their people to embrace healthy living and sustainable habits.
A recent survey of 280 tenants by commercial property manager Colliers International found tenants valued bicycle parking and end-of-trip facilities above car-parking. Meanwhile, CBRE’s first Australia Occupier Survey, published last year, found tenants want to get “more people in less space” – but they want the space to work harder. In fact, 74 per cent of respondents said they would value a “wellness offering” in their workplace.
And this is hardly a surprise when we consider the high-end offerings on the market.
At Grosvenor Place, the Harry Seidler-designed building at 225 George Street in Sydney, new end-of-trip facilities were unveiled by the co-owners Dexus, Mirvac and Arcadia in 2015. The deluxe ‘Camerino’, or dressing room in Italian, features full air-conditioning, 30 showers, more than 500 lockers and space to park 170 bicycles.
Each private shower room features a full-length mirror and splash-protected power outlet to charge smartphones. ‘Grooming stations’ include hair dryers and straighteners. The change rooms house fresh towels and luxe leather seats, as well as giant screens streaming news, sport and weather. An ironing station, dry cleaning service and shoe polishing machine, plus a bicycle repair station round out the offerings. The Camerino is described as “a place to dress for the theatre as much as showering after a cycle commute.”
At Mirvac’s 367 Collins Street, a former loading dock and disused bank vault have been transformed into a $2 million end-of-trip paradise that includes all the bells and whistles. ‘The Nest’ – named as a nod to the building’s resident peregrine falcons – includes 22 showers, more than 500 lockers and 220 bike racks. Vending machines sell bike tubes and socks, there’s a complimentary towel service, as well as a drying cupboard for wet lycra.
And Westpac’s new headquarters at Sydney’s Barangaroo also reflect evolving expectations among tenants. International Towers Sydney boasts facilities that cater to a “growing two-wheeled army of professionals” that use their daily commute as a cardiac workout. Tower 2 features 1,120 bike parking spaces, 1,240 lockers and 110 showers, as well as fresh daily towels, garment airing facilities, ironing stations, hair dryers and straighteners.
Ian Bell, Westpac’s Head of Group Property, says employees were asked what they wanted from their new office space before the bank moved to Barangaroo, and “overwhelmingly, they wanted a greater focus on wellbeing, including access to significantly enhanced end-of-trip facilities including bike racks, lockers and shower facilities and a towel service.”
“We really want to encourage everyone to exercise more regularly by making it easy to use our end‐of‐trip facilities and providing a superior range of services,” he added.
As the wellness movement continues to gather speed, the benefits of cycling stack up. Just one study published in the British Medical Journal in April found that people who cycle to work have a 52 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40 per cent lower risk of dying from cancer.
Of course, end-of-trip facilities aren’t restricted to cyclists on their commute. Walkers, runner and lunchtime sporting teams all want access to the showers, lockers and other amenities.
Asset performance manager Ashish Kulkarni has led a number of projects for NDY over the last 18 months, from million-dollar retrofits to more modest renovations. He says “the amount of money spent on an upgrade must match the grade of the building.”
Building owners of premium assets are investing in end-of-trip facilities to encourage tenants to renew long-term leases, while owners of lower-grade assets are looking for smart design that doesn’t cost much to implement.
“From an engineering perspective, we need to match the services to reflect the grade of the building to ensure money is being spent wisely,” Kulkarni noted.
The end-of-trip facilities at 60 Miller Street in North Sydney, a Dexus building occupied by NDY, was “initially just a bunch of showers in the basement,” Kulkarni said.
“We worked with Dexus to find an empty space, increase the number of showers, provide more bikes storage and lockers, and better access. It is a much more attractive and functional space now: people use it and it’s improved the customer value proposition for building occupants.”
So what does this smart design look like?
While most of the ‘bang for buck’ comes down to the value the tenants can see – the flooring, finishes and extra features that give the wow factor – engineering plays an important role. For example, while an A-Grade or Premium Grade building may be fully air conditioned, spot conditioning may be adequate in lower-grade buildings. And lighting, when used cleverly, can lend a space the “luxury hotel look” and remove the dark, dingy basement feel without costing a fortune.
Security is another consideration, as some of the bikes people ride today can cost more than cars.
“The facilities shouldn’t be completely enclosed, because seeing people coming and going activates the space. But we also need to provide good security,” Kulkarni explained.
Electronic locks and swipe cards, coupled with CCTV cameras and in some cases double-entry doors, can give people extra peace of mind.
Retrofitting existing buildings with state-of-the-art cyclists’ havens are not without challenges. Determining the best route for the people who will use the facilities – one that doesn’t leave them weaving through an underground labyrinth or sneaking through the lobby in a towel – must be balanced with the feasibility of services.
“How do we get water and outside air into a previously unused section of a basement? How do we make it compliant? These are some of the things engineers need to consider,” Kulkarni said.
The provision of showers can increase the building’s water and energy consumption, and ventilation systems can be a significant energy user if not well designed and managed. Getting the balance right takes research and hard work.
At the heart of sustainability is a philosophy of ‘doing more with less’ – and that’s exactly what end-of-trip-facilities offer. They realise the potential of an under-utilised space, and in doing so, provide greater amenity to tenants, encourage active lifestyles, cut carbon emissions and deliver better value for building owners.
And that’s why they are much more than just bike racks in the basement.