How to make your workplace more sustainable

Sustainability is a word used around many workplaces over the past few years. And it’s become a subject close to our hearts as we learn more about the current and future implications of not attacking the climate crisis.

 

The 2021 COP26 event in Glasgow brought the topic of sustainability closer to home, and many businesses are investigating ways they can contribute to lowering their overall carbon emissions.

 

The great news is that there’s no downside to making your business more sustainable. You’ll save money and become recognised as a sustainable business. Indeed, when attracting new staff, people prefer to work for companies with responsible ethics. Consequently, a sustainable business is one way of showcasing your company’s ethos.

 

So how do you become a sustainable business? Essentially, there are two areas of focus – your physical business premises and your operational culture.

 

What makes a sustainable new build?

One of the legacies of the Covid lockdowns of 2020 has been the increase in remote working. As we discussed in a previous article, the future of office workspaces may be geared towards smaller, out of town hubs rather than large city-centre office blocks. So, if we’re constructing these new workspaces, let’s factor in sustainability at the design stage as it’s much easier to do it then rather than retrofit later.

 

Materials

The materials used in the building are a fundamental part of creating a sustainable office space. Using green, renewable methods of construction which incorporate materials like timber, recycled steel, insulated concrete, roof gardens, breathable membranes and renders all contribute to the carbon footprint of the building.

In addition, selecting materials with a high thermal mass (i.e. they absorb the heat from the sun) will contribute to heating the building at night as the heat is released.

 

Insulation

Nobody has ever complained about a building being too well insulated, and retaining the generated heat is critical to having a sustainable building. Investing in high-quality thermal and acoustic insulation at the construction stage will lower the running costs of the building massively. In addition, investing in high-tech glazing will help regulate the heat generated through natural means and maximise the natural light in the building.

 

Airflow

Making buildings as air-tight as possible has been a feature of architectural design for many years. There is a clear benefit of not losing heat via leakage from the building. However, internal air quality has become a core consideration for many, particularly in the post-Covid world, with people being more aware of the health benefits of a well-ventilated workplace. So, an effective air conditioning system with clean air filtration is crucial for every new build office space. In addition, regular maintenance and inspection of the HVAC system will ensure it runs at peak efficiency.

 

Lighting

Everyone knows that natural light is the ideal source. As such, architects place a considerable focus on maximising the amount of natural light in the building. However, it’s not always a reliable and consistent source, depending on the country, so low-energy, long-lasting LED lights are the preferred option. In addition, using motion sensors to activate the lighting when someone is in a room will reduce energy use even further.

 

How to retrofit your office workspace to make it more sustainable

 

As we’ve shown, creating a sustainable building is much easier to do in the design and construction phase. But what can you do when you already have a building? Depending on your budget, there are a few options to consider:

 

Replace glazing

Windows are one of the largest sources of heat loss, so replacing your existing windows with double-glazed versions will make a significant difference to your building. This is a serious consideration with cost and disruption to your daily operations, so careful calculation is needed to justify the ROI.

 

Upgrade HVAC

If your HVAC system is old, you will benefit from upgrading to a new, energy-efficient design. Combine this with improved controls inside the building to regulate temperature and use innovative technology to create efficient heating zones. Smart technology can further increase the benefits by heating only the building when people are present.

 

Change lighting

While you may not be able to increase the amount of natural light entering the building, you can swap out all your fluorescent and halogen lights for low-energy LED versions. Depending on the size of your building, you’ll notice the difference in your electricity usage. In addition, timers and motion sensors will prevent you from wasting energy on lighting unoccupied areas of your building.

 

Improving sustainability through business operations

 

Making your building more sustainable through modern construction methods and materials is one part of the equation. The other is in adopting a culture of sustainability in your company.

 

How to create a sustainable office culture

 

Your culture won’t change itself and needs leading from the top. So for any cultural change programme to succeed, it has to start with your board and senior management team buying into the changes that will need to be made.

 

Create a sustainability team

A great way to kick-start your sustainability programme is to create an internal team to brainstorm ideas and implement initiatives. As well as spreading the workload around, it also allows your employees to feel part of the business.

 

Use monthly events

A monthly event can be an interesting way to get your workforce to adopt your green initiatives. For example, try challenging everyone to use a reusable coffee cup for the month.

 

Use policies

Create a company policy for all electrical equipment to be switched off at night. Many offices leave their PCs and printers switched on when there is absolutely no need.

 

Recycling

Install recycling bins in communal areas and encourage everyone to use them correctly with signage.

 

Green chemicals

Dispose of all your chemical cleaning solutions and replace them with environmentally friendly versions.

 

Go paperless

Becoming a paperless office is a big step and may have to take place over a period of time where paper use is reduced. You may need to invest in technology to help with this process. For example, you may need a new multi-function device to scan documents and store them as digitised versions. On newer machines, you can implement printing policies to monitor and control the volume of printing in your office.

Summary

As you can see, creating a sustainable office can be done in incremental stages where you combine a new workplace culture with green initiatives. Implementing a sustainability policy will ultimately save you money and improve your standing in the community, making it easier to attract future staff and customers.

 

Anderton Gable’s Workplace Consultancy assists building occupiers with the refurbishment of their existing place of work, relocation to new premises (from acquisition to occupation), and helping Landlords maximise their buildings potential.

 

For more information, please follow this link https://www.andertongables.co.uk/workplace-consultancy/