In June 2019, the UK government passed legislation requiring the reduction of greenhouse gases by 100% by the year 2050. It is the most ambitious target the UK has set and requires every individual and company to act if we are going to achieve it. We all have to take responsibility, but businesses and industries find themselves at the forefront of this green revolution, given the emissions that business enterprise is responsible for.
Everyone is becoming much more environmentally conscious and aware of the “net-zero” concept. Stakeholders from customers to investors are all looking for ways to reduce their own carbon footprint. Companies also have an essential part to play in the shift toward sustainability. There are several considerations you can make in your office design to improve your carbon footprint.
While you stand the best chance of achieving sustainability through moving to a different location that is optimised for minimal environmental impact, this might not be a practical solution in the short term. There are still several steps you can take within your current environment to improve your company’s carbon footprint, through smart choices within office furniture and refurbishment.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The best place to start is the “3 Rs” – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Although you can’t stop waste production entirely, these 3 steps will help you lessen the impact of the waste you do create.
‘Reduce’ is all about decreasing the amount of waste you produce, as this is the simplest and most effective way of lowering your carbon footprint. This could mean not buying more materials than you need, or avoiding the use of single-use products.
‘Reusing’ is simply reusing an item that you might not want anymore but is still perfectly usable. This could involve repurposing as much of your existing furniture as possible when you refurbish your office or selling it to a second-hand dealer rather than disposing of it.
‘Recycling’ means breaking down a product and making something new from the components. It should only be done if the other two options are not possible as this process in itself usually requires extra energy input. However, choosing to recycle could lead to you actively choosing and purchasing products that make use of recycled elements such as plastic or fabric.
If you want to be as sustainable as possible, incorporating the “3 Rs” into your workspace is a great place to start, as it can apply to every facet of your office design.
Utilise Natural Light
Artificial light generally uses about 30% of the electricity consumed within a commercial building. While that percentage can vary, many commercial buildings, especially older ones, do not make the most of the natural light available and as such may be using more energy than necessary. Well utilised natural light can not only reduce the environmental impact but has the added benefit of lowering the financial expense required to run a building. This is one of the main reasons why newer, better-designed buildings are more sustainable.
An equally effective method of reducing energy output, your office layout and space planning can also be a fantastic way to reduce the need for additional lighting. If little-used elements of the workspace, such as boardrooms, are near the windows, perhaps they can be moved so that more used areas have prime access to natural light. Storage and shelving may also be blocking access to natural light, so it’s a good idea to ensure these are out of the way of the most-used areas.
It is also important to consider morning vs afternoon light, and how your space can be planned to make the most of the hours and direction of natural light. This also extends to the hours your team are at work- could this be altered to make the most of organic light?
Furniture is one of the easiest ways to make your office more sustainable. Your first considerations here should be the “3 Rs”- can you reduce the amount you need through effective design, re-use what you already have, or purchase products that are wholly or partly recycled?
Many manufacturers offer product ranges with recycled and/or environmentally friendly materials. It also is important to consider the energy used in manufacturing (and transportation) of your furniture. When selecting furniture and materials, opting for classic ‘timeless’ styles, both in finishes and structure, can reduce the need for frequent replacement when trends go out of fashion.
Durability and longevity of materials and products are also critical factors. If products are poor quality or badly designed, they will not be as popular within the space and will be wasted, and will need to be replaced sooner. Furniture should last at least 7 years from new and can be sold to second-hand dealers or recycled, rather than sent to landfill.
Energy Efficient Equipment
The modern workspace is full of technology, from touch-free coffee machines to smart building systems. Looking for the most energy-efficient options with every device can make a tangible impact on your carbon footprint, as can looking at alternatives. A Laptop tends to be a lot more efficient than a desktop PC, so would a laptop be possible for all or most of your team?
Appliances can also have an impact. As well as choosing white goods that are energy-efficient, using them in the most effective way is also important. Simple changes such as noticing if your dishwasher is never full and trying to make sure it is as full a possible before it is used, or switching to a smaller, more economical option if necessary.
However, possibly the biggest; and simplest, difference you can make with your appliances is how you use them. Turn off equipment whenever you aren’t using it, from your computer to the printer. And no, standby is not good enough- that has very little impact on energy consumption. You can even take it one step further and unplug the things you don’t use that often as they can drain energy even when turned off.
Creating the Culture
All of the above measures will have very little lasting impact if you don’t get the single most important element right: culture. It is essential that your people genuinely care about your efforts to become sustainable.
If they believe that you genuinely care about the environment and improving the situation, rather than seeing it as a PR exercise, your efforts will gain true momentum and become a seamless part of the company culture. By incorporating sustainability in every area of the workplace, and making it easy for your people to act responsibly on a day-to-day basis, you will greatly increase your chances of success.
You won’t achieve sustainability solely through office design and furniture; however, it is a fantastic place to start and is an area that all employees will notice and engage with immediately. Other areas to look to in lowering your carbon footprint include going truly paperless and incorporating biophilic design into your workplace.
There is a common misconception that eco-friendly offices simply aren’t as stylish. However, going green certainly doesn’t mean you have to compromise aesthetics, with elements such as eco-friendly furniture designs, stunning natural light features and ‘wow-factor living walls.
A sustainable office will reap huge also benefits for the reputation and financial aspect of your business. Lowering your carbon footprint will have a tangible impact on your costs over the long term, as well as your social obligation to minimise and eliminate your environmental impact.
It might seem as though your company can’t do much, but if every business and every employee can get on board, small changes soon become big changes in reducing our carbon footprint.
To discover how your office design can support you in building a more sustainable business get in contact with one of our experts today on 020 3916 5005