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Sustainability: 4 Immediate Opportunities to Make Offices Greener

Greener offices are good for business, your corporate real estate portfolio, and most of all, the planet.

As sustainability becomes a main focal point to overall business objectives, workplace teams have a prime opportunity to lead their organizations to be more responsive to climate change.

Going green can help workplace teams save the company money as being environmentally friendly is becoming increasingly more economical. For example, the real cost of capital for new coal plants is 15% higher  than it is for renewables. No corporate shareholder would have anything bad to say about a 15% reduction in corporate spend.

With the right tools and tactics, workplace teams can take four immediate opportunities to make offices more environmentally friendly.

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Opportunity #1: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)

In the U.S. alone, energy consumption through HVAC equipment accounts for 40% of the energy used by commercial buildings.

Keeping office temperatures comfortable is important; however, the automatic cooling and warming of spaces–that are usually only occupied for part of the day–is not only fiscally wasteful but environmentally wasteful as well. For example, heat produced by bodies and equipment will often trigger an HVAC system to cool the air, even in the winter.

To combat wasteful HVAC use, integration with occupancy sensors can help increase energy efficiency. Smart systems that utilize occupancy sensors can better monitor and anticipate office temperature needs.

According to an experimental study, a commercial space using advanced occupancy sensor technology achieved an HVAC energy savings of 17 to 24%. 

Opportunity #2: Materials

Your choice of materials and where they come from matters. For example, if you need to import a large amount of stone from Europe, there’s a great deal of energy being used to quarry and transport such a material.

Renewables like bamboo, furniture made from recycled plastic, and locally sourced materials all contribute to better environmental stewardship. In the case of  eco-friendly office furniture, businesses can have a positive impact on preventing deforestation, reducing landfill contributions, improving their immediate environment, reducing transportation costs, and elevating their brand.

Opportunity #3: Lighting

When it comes to lighting office space–and finding more energy efficient ways to illuminate spaces–much can be done both in terms of natural and artificial lighting.

Harnessing the power of natural light is the best way to rely less on artificial illumination. For example, light shelves help outside light penetrate through a building while reducing glare and providing shade near windows. In fact, windows using light shelves can help light penetrate further into space 2.5 to 4 times further than windows that don’t.

Offices will inevitably need artificial light and using such light sources can be more environmentally friendly than you may think. It is estimated that occupancy sensors, ceiling light dimmers, task lighting, and daylight photosensors can save energy costs on lighting by almost 40%. 

Opportunity #4: Space reduction

Space reduction is the most intuitive opportunity and ties into every aspect of sustainability. For example, if you reduce your office’s square footage by 20%, you’re simultaneously reducing your carbon footprint via energy and material needs.

In many cases, leaner spaces reflect how people actually work. They hyper-focus on the needs of the employee and the organization–making them inherently environmentally friendly.

Why? Because intentionally designed and fit-for-purpose spaces only have room for actual spatial needs. Understanding spatial needs also improves adjacencies and reduces circulation distances–i.e., the movement of people in a building.

Workplace’s role in sustainability

It will take all of us to leave the world a better and greener place than how we found it. As businesses everywhere are committing to net-zero emissions by 2040, workplace teams have a unique opportunity to lead their organizations to be more environmentally friendly by way of the office. They also have the opportunity to intentionally design spaces that work better for people and the work people do.

For more about sustainability and the workplace, click the image below to download our infographic and learn how greener office spaces are better for business, the planet, and corporate real estate portfolios:

Sustainability: Good for business, the planet, and your real estate portfolio