Pasona O2 made headlines a few years ago for having a rice paddy inside its office. However, since last spring the project had been closed while the recruitment firm moved to their new Marunouchi location.
Well, now they’re settled in and the eco office facilities are open — even to the general public! We went down to the company headquarters near Tokyo station, the heart of the capital’s banking district, to check out the project.
It’s gone through a bit of an image change: the name has become “Urban Farm”, and the quantity and variety of plants has greatly increased. The rice field is also no longer underground, but on the first floor and fully visible — and accessible — from the street.
The Urban Farm in total covers five thousand tsubo (c.19,760 sq. yds.) and contains over two hundred kinds of plants, including tomatoes, peppers, egg plant and, of course, rice.
Staff take it in turns to tend daily to the rice paddy and the other vegetation. Though this does decrease the CO2 emissions of the building by up 2 tons a year, the objective of the project is not “just” ecological.
Team skills and communication are said to be greatly improved through the gardening duties performed by the employees. They learn wholly new things and interact with each other in ways they would never encounter without, well, a watering can! Not a bad advertisement for a human resources firm!
The rice paddy is harvested three times a year; the cultivation facilities are an improvement on usual natural conditions which yields just one annual crop. Each time the Pasona farmers can get 50kg of rice from the field. This is then used in the staff canteen on the ninth storey; though it doesn’t feed all two thousand employees in the building it adds up to roughly three thousand onigiri rice balls a year.
The second floor meeting space, with its wooden furniture and green surroundings, also leads to relaxed, informal and, perhaps, better use of time. The office and desk areas are also apparently green: this is an experiment in creating a new kind of work place, as much as an eco project.