Sustainable Office Design – What You Need to Know
Sustainable design is becoming an increasingly common feature in offices and workplaces. By making better design decisions companies can not only reduce their carbon and resource footprint, but they can also save money.
Sustainability may well be a buzzword but what does it actually mean in terms of office design?
An Environmentally Sustainable Building
The environmental performance of the entire building will have the largest impact on the sustainability of your workplace. Depending on your budget, there are numerous ways that energy efficiency can be built into your design. It might include added insulation to the inside of external walls and elements that minimise energy and water usage.
Solar panels or other renewable energy sources could be fitted to the building to try to make it as self-sufficient as possible. Air or ground source heat pumps can be used to ensure that the building is heated efficiently and sustainably.
Getting to Work
How do people travel to work? Adequate secure cycle storage should replace at least some of the car parking spaces. Shower and changing facilities can encourage more people to get on their bike.
Is your office well-integrated with the public transport system and how can you promote green alternatives to car travel? If people have to travel via their own vehicles, then create and promote a lift-share scheme that allows people to book lifts with their colleagues across the company (social distance guidelines permitting).
In the Office
In the office itself, the office interior layout should try to maximise solar gain and natural light to reduce dependency on artificial lighting, particularly in the winter. Well-thought-out natural ventilation should replace air conditioning.
Offices everywhere are going paperless. When printing can’t be avoided, then you should use recycled FSC accredited paper products. Single-use plastic and paper cups that once used to fill up office wastepaper bins should become a thing of the past.
Encourage people to bring in their own reusable cups and water bottles and consider making your own branded water bottles to give to members of staff and customers. Recycling should be embedded into office life with waste being separated and facilities to recycle made readily available. Non-toxic environmentally friendly cleaning products should be used throughout your office.
The Human Element
Increasingly, the human element of workplace sustainability is being emphasised. This involves specific strategies and goals to preserve and improve the quality of life for people in the office. Some of the elements of a sustainable workplace strategy can help to improve the quality of life and office wellbeing of the people who work there, such as cycling or walking to work.
Within the workplace, introducing office plants and more greenery can help to improve air quality. As too can providing breakout and ‘decompression’ spaces that allow people to take time out in comfortable surroundings. Involving colleagues with a sustainability strategy can help to foster a sense of shared endeavour.
Sustainability is going to play an increasingly important role in workplace design and company culture over the coming years. The upside of these changes is likely to be workplaces that are more human as well as planet-friendly.