5 Minutes With Michael Banak, Rothelowman


Michael Banak is a principal at national design firm Rothelowman, recently joining them to expand their commercial office division. Here Michael talks about some of his principles, trends and issues in the commercial office design environment.

What are some of your guiding principles when you’re designing commercial offices?
The first principle might seem simple, but cannot be overstated: we work closely with our clients to create well-resolved and intuitive spaces.

We want to create commercial offices that are also beautiful spaces people enjoy being in, and asking our clients what they want is where we start this process.

As a Green Star accredited professional and a member of the Green Building Council of Australia I like to ensure that environmentally sustainable outcomes can be achieved on any project I’m working on.

Maximising tenanted areas by reducing floorplates allows larger companies to move into smaller-footprint spaces, thereby reducing overheads and overall carbon emissions.

I’m passionate about sustainable solutions and am pleased to see the advent of trends such as activity based working providing new solutions away from one-size-fits-all models of the past.
Why do you think sustainability in office buildings is important?
Environmental sustainability in commercial office buildings is now a regulated imperative – in commercial office buildings you must have a 5-star Green Star minimum. Recent changes to the mandatory Commercial Building Disclosure program will further emphasise the need to improve the Energy Efficiency of the existing commercial building stock in Australia.

At Rothelowman we aim to surpass these standards as we recognise that without them tenants don’t want to work in those buildings.

From a functionality perspective, sustainable offices provide better air quality, better light and reduction of sick days. It’s true that your productivity and efficiency is much better in a healthy building.

Project: East Edge Botanicca in Richmond, Melbourne. Cutting-edge strata offices settled amidst the beauty of the Yarra River are designed to elicit the professionalism of a tightly held corporate hub. Offices and communal spaces transition the outdoors in using light interplay and generous balconies, while sleek finishes, restrained warehouse-inspired design and communal green hubs facilitate professional interaction.

What key trends do you see influencing the commercial office design sector in the next few years?
Technology allows people to work away from the office and at any time. Based on the environment created by shifting workplace boundaries, community based office environments have risen to prominence – allowing for work hubs or shared spaces.

Shared spaces (tenanted by a number of different businesses) represent an emerging innovation in the commercial workplace. The model appeals to start-up businesses where whole office spaces aren’t required, but also to established businesses with short-term overflow; people wanting to log into a work environment remotely can also find the shared space model works for them.

This shared economy allows people from a number of disciplines to collaborate more effectively and to access larger office facilities without the commitment and overheads of real estate. I’m confident the agility afforded by the shared economy trend will see the shared office become an entrenched mode of business.
What do you see as the key issues facing the architectural profession and development in general in Sydney?
The Apartment Design Guidelines are quite stringent in how you design apartments – but because of these restrictions there’s an improved emphasis on design. Rothelowman has established a platform where skilled professionals can test ideas, innovate and propose more valuable options, which evolve into industry-leading outcomes for clients.
What do you see as some of the key areas for improvement in architecture as an industry?

Equality at all levels is something I’d like to see more of. I am a signatory of the Male Champions of Change charter, which is backed by top-tier architects in Sydney to promote gender equality. Male Champions of Change was founded by Sexual Discrimination Minister Elizabeth Broderick to empower CEOs and board directors to support women in the industry. Through the charter we have been trying to address barriers to equality including flexible hours and parental leave.
How will innovation affect the industry?

3D visualisation is going to be the ‘next big thing’. It’s a relatively low-cost method of trial-and-error for ideas and is going to be revolutionary.

I’m fascinated with some of the new technologies that are available – for example, goggles that allow you to visualise your designs. This will completely change the way we work as you can also interact directly with the building and change things collaboratively in an environment not restricted by location. It will help to find any problems on site and, just as importantly, lead to innovations across all stages of the design and building process.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in architecture?
In high school I took a subject called tech-drawing where you could draw objects and elevations in 3D by hand! I loved it. I realised I was quite happy drawing all day – so I knew I wanted to be an architect.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like working on large projects where you can collaborate with people of different cultures and sectors, and I have worked on international office projects in China, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. On any large-scale project the teams are diverse. I really enjoy the kind of team environment that allows you to get to know different people.

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