The EU’s Green Week (30 May to 3 June 2016) this year focuses on ‘investing for a greener future’, exploring and debating the European environment policy. One aspect of this theme is greener cities, making them a better place to live and work. The office interior has many opportunities for creating a greener environment, and investment now can have long-term benefits for both employees and organisations.
5 Tips For A Greener Office
- Eco-Friendly Design
The design and layout of the office can have a significant impact on energy use. As well as ensuring your office design promotes productivity, collaboration and creativity, another key consideration is the most effective way to heat and light the space. Energy savings can be made with a well-thought out design, for example by reducing the number of individual offices in a building that require heating, and grouping employees into shared spaces.
Installing a green roof, a layer of plants and vegetation, can help moderate outdoor heat in the summer, keeping the office cool, while insulating the office in the winter months – keeping heat in. The cost of installing a green roof can be recouped over time through energy cost savings.
As well as growing plants on the roof there are good reasons to invite nature inside the building too. Plants can help to purify the air and be used as a feature in the office interior design. The following plants score highly on NASA’s purifying scale: areca palm, lady palm, rubber plant, English ivy, and peace lily.
Other considerations include the materials used in the office interior. Look for sustainable products and furniture, use low-energy office appliances, and environmentally friendly materials.
- Energy Efficiency
Saving energy is not just about turning lights off and using your computer’s energy saving mode (more on that later). There are other ways you can improve the energy efficiency of the office such as utilising natural light. Wider windows and light wells can introduce more light into the office environment, and improve the wellbeing of employees.
Temperature control is an important factor for creating a productive environment and for saving energy. Low-e, argon filled windows help to regulate the interior temperature by reacting to the outside weather conditions, avoiding the need to turn the heating or air-con on for longer. Smart climate control will also reduce the office energy bills by ensuring that only spaces in use are heated, so rooms that are less often in use, such as conference rooms, are not routinely heated.
Many organisations are also producing their own energy. Solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps create green energy and reduce energy costs long term.
- The Sustainable Office
What you do day-to-day in the office also affects your green credentials. The mantra Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle is just as relevant in the office as it is in the home environment.
The first step to a greener office is to reduce waste, energy consumption and water usage. Simple measures such as setting the office printer to double-sided by default will ensure that paper is used efficiently, or turning office thermostats down by one degree will save energy and result in lower energy bills.
Similarly, push taps on sinks and dual flush systems in office toilets will reduce water use. Rainwater can also be harvested to be re-used in the office, such as for flushing toilets.
Another effective way to reduce waste, which we apply in many of our office designs, is to reduce storage in the office so that employees think twice about printing resources. This results in less paper usage, and less clutter.
Other energy saving tips include encouraging employees to open a window or draw down a blind to regulate the office temperature – instead of switching on the air con – and turning computers off overnight and over the weekend. Motion sensitive lighting, in areas with no natural light such as bathrooms, store cupboards and stairwells, will also impact on your office’s energy usage ensuring that lights are only on when needed. Photo sensors are also an excellent way to ensure that lighting is optimised for energy efficiency; these sensors detect natural light and adjust artificial lighting accordingly.
A green office strategy should also include a policy on re-using resources such as paper. Scrap paper can be turned into notepads or used for printing rough copies; and envelopes, jiffy bags and packaging can also be re-used where feasible.
We’re all familiar with recycling resources such as paper, card, glass etc. but what about recycling your office interior? Our current refurbishment project with Boehringer Ingelheim involves recycling elements from the old office such as panels and furniture, and creating new design features with them. If you are unable to recycle fixtures and fittings in your own office there are many charities and recycling schemes that will take your old office furniture and put it to good use.
- Buying Green
If it isn’t possible to produce your own renewable energy, the next best thing is to buy green energy. A green energy tariff will reduce your organisation’s carbon emissions.
Also look for environmentally friendly supplies such as stationery, toilet paper – even the eco-friendly coffee for use in the office coffee machine.
- Green Travel
An eco-friendly office extends out of the actual office space and into the local environment. Encouraging your employees to use other forms of transport can reduce carbon emissions from cars, motorbikes and other vehicles. Bikes for work incentives can help get employees onto two wheels instead of four, car sharing schemes can reduce the number of vehicle movements to and from your building, and help with public transport costs such as season ticket loans can also give employees an alternative to their car.
While it may not be possible to avoid air travel completely, have a strategy in place to decide whether business flights are essential and for making the most of any flights taken. For example, a virtual meeting could be a viable alternative to a face-to-face meeting. However, if that’s not the case, it is it possible to maximise that flight by arranging more meetings or visits while in that region?
We would love to hear how green your office is! Share your eco-friendly office ideas with our team on our Facebook page.