By: Brohmsek Yen-ura and Sujay Natson
UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (EAPRO) and Thailand Country Offices (TCO) are located overlooking the Chao Phraya river, one of the main waterways in Bangkok. Between May 2018 to June 2019, both offices embarked on the ambitious task to renovate the current premises to reduce their environmental footprint, make the working space more eco-efficient and green.
The two buildings are quite distinct from each other. The TCO building was originally a house that belonged to the Thai royal family since 1865. It was leased to UNICEF in the late 1960s right when the organization stated its operations in Thailand, hence it came with beautiful ornate tiles adorning its floors and high wooden ceilings. EAPRO was a later addition to the site and follows a more modern architecture, housing the regional teams. Each building came with their own unique challenges when it came to office renovations to improve their green features. After over a year of hard work, many improvements were achieved to make the EAPRO and TCO sites and operations one of the greenest UNICEF offices globally.
1. Individual Zone Control AC and Air Quality Monitoring
Our VRV air-conditioner unit provides not only the ability to maintain individual zone control, but also has an auto-cleaning function that increases energy efficiency by 50%.
In addition to this system, the office has also invested in air purifiers, placed across the office to tackle the seasonal air pollution that affects Bangkok annually. The CO2 sensor boxes integrated with the air conditioners near workstations monitor indoor air quality.
2. Low-Carbon Footprint Recycled Rugs
Our floors are made of 100% recycled plastic rugs. The materials are free from hazardous chemicals, phthalates and heavy metals. The entire production, from design to finished floors, was done in a factory powered by 100% renewable energy. It has significantly lower fossil fuel content compared to other plastic floors. The materials were sourced from local suppliers by the manufacturer to reduce the environmental impact from transport, and has relatively low maintenance as it can be cleaned without the use of chemicals and just using water.
Also, the floor design was custom made for UNICEF.
3. Energy Saving LED Lights
Our office space is equipped with LED lights and motion sensors to automatically turn the lights off, reducing our electricity consumption by about 32% compared to traditional lighting. This type of lighting also saves costs as it has a longer lifespan.
4. Renewable Energy Supply
UNICEF EAPRO installed solar panels on its rooftop in October 2015. They generate 43.92 kWh of electricity power, saving over 22% of the office’s power consumption. Additional solar panels will be installed later this year. When the project is completed, the system will provide an additional 19.44 kWh solar power. In total, 40% of the office energy consumption annually is expected to be provided by this solar system.
5. Accessibility and Inclusiveness
Our compound integrates elements of accessible and usable design to be fully inclusive to accommodate disabilities. Our design aims to create a workplace where all feel comfortable, safe. It is the foundation of any positive staff experience.
The compound design looks into a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging. In other words, it is rooted in the idea that despite age, size, weight, or disability, all can use our functions fully.
6. Water Efficient Green Spaces Around both Offices
Our compound is surrounded by local plants that are naturally found in the tropical region. We planted them to ensure that staff are provided by green spaces to enjoy while in the office.
These plants include some herbs and horticulture plants widely grown in Thailand, such as papaya, gulp, basil, lemon grass, and bergamot. The combination of humidity and rainfall usually provides enough water for them to survive without supplemental watering, adding to the lush 250 square metre landscape.
7. Hybrid vehicles
We replaced our aging, fully fossil-fuel dependent vehicle fleet with Plug-in Hybrids for lower tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions. Our CO2 emissions now are as low as 42g per kilometre. In addition, we have also installed an electric vehicle charging point and we are planning to install a second point on-site, that can be used by staff to charge their e-motorbikes or e-scooters.
With these efforts the EAPRO and TCO show their support to UNICEF’s commitment to improve the eco-efficiency of its premises and operations in the fight against the climate crisis. The UNICEF Thailand Green Team will continue working hard to encourage more greening actions among staff not only in the office but also in their daily lives. We hope our experience serves as a source of inspiration to other UNICEF offices.