Looking for a new office is a lot of work. Normally, you’d search over hundreds of office space listings and weigh your options before finally choosing a new location. You base your decision on quantifiable factors like the size of the space and the initial and operational costs of renting it. Then, you look at more qualitative aspects of the new office such as comfort, office design, productivity, and safety.
There’s another factor worth considering: the sustainability of the structure. Businesses are after offices designed around how people use them.
Moving to a sustainable office has benefits that are hard to ignore. Depending on the place, the rent could be higher but you can significantly lower water, power bills and operational expenses. PR wise, going green gives the business a responsible image. It also boosts the productivity and health of your employees. In fact, Harvard University discovered that workers in green offices are more than twice as productive as those in conventional offices. How? It’s because a sustainable office space has features that have good effects on the physical and mental health of your employees. And healthier and happier employees means better business.
The demand for sustainable office spaces is increasing but most of the available premises are still conventional. If you’re planning to move your business to a green office, here are some factors you should look for:
Smart office location and facilities
Situate the new office in a place that’s good for the business and your employees.
Keep transportation and accessibility in mind. It’s better if the new premises is accessible via alternative modes of transport such as bike or train / other public transport. That helps the government reduce the number of cars on the road.
When Nintendo, USA, acquired their new offices in Redmond, Washington, Mr. Flip Morse, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Resources at NOA started biking from his home to the office and back. The shorter distance between his home and the office allowed him to do so. Flip encouraged employees who live near the office to ride a bike instead of using a car to get to work. He convinced management to build a well-ventilated locker room where bikers could park their gear and dry their wet clothes. By providing these facilities Nintendo supported and enriched a sustainable office culture.
Ample source and right use of natural light
An office with double-glazed windows and skylights welcomes a lot of natural light into the space, but that isn’t enough on its own.
In a process called daylighting architects plans the orientation of the work areas so the office layout maximizes natural light. The most common layout that follows daylighting is an open floor plan with glass walls and partition which work to keep spaces well-lit.
Natural lighting is an important element of a sustainable office – it cuts the cost of power bills and it heightens the mood, attention, cognitive performance and alertness of your employees. Natural light is also your employees’ source of Vitamin D in the morning and improves the quality of their sleep when they return home in the evening.
The building’s insulation is a barrier which protects the temperature inside the office. Poor insulation results in your auxiliary cooling and heating systems working harder to keep occupants comfortable. Air conditioners and heaters are power-hungry and increase the electricity bill.
The best way to ensure proper insulation is to discuss and plan insulation with an experienced architect or contractor. They can tell you if the office is leaky and suggest the remodeling needed before you move in.
Efficient water features
As the company grows, you should think about ways of conserving water in the office. Start by reporting and fixing leaks from the pipes.
Ask for sustainable water features. Some buildings collect rainwater from the roof to supply water for bathrooms and landscaping. Some have dual plumbing systems meaning the structure has separate pipes for recycling and treating water. You can also use water-efficient toilets and faucets in the office bathroom.
Alternative or hybrid sources of energy
Solar panels are long-term capital investments. It’s the owner of the building who should install these for their tenants. This is what architect Gene Dub did when he designed the building called the Edge in Edmonton, Alberta. The 10-storey office building has 500 solar panels worth $400,000 strategically laid on its southern side. It generates 80% of the building’s total energy needs, slashing the building’s power bills. In addition, the solar panels will pay for themselves in five years. The tenants of the building are paying less for electricity and the costs are more predictable.
Green, efficient building materials
The building materials are the most crucial part of a green office. Before moving in, request the documents and certifications which prove that the office space you’re about to rent is sustainable. The credentials must show that the materials used to build the space adhere to environmental policies of your country, state, or a credible third-party institution.
When you renovate, use building materials with a low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. Do this to improve the air quality in the office. VOCs are toxic pollutants, the reasons behind many office sicknesses — eye allergies, breathing problems, headaches and nausea.
Also, give preference to local building products. Through this you support the local economy and take care of the environment. Local building products have lower carbon footprints compared to imported products which traveled miles before reaching you.
And finally, use the underutilized space
Unused areas will only collect dust and spider webs if you don’t do something about them. Together with your architect, think of a purpose for that underutilized area. You can build a storage or turn it into a fun area. If you’re creating a coworking space, maximize it by adding more seats and tables for your employees.
Demands on office spaces have become more challenging— spaces must be environmentally friendly and human-centered at the same time. Building sustainable office spaces should be the main job of people in the design and build industry. However, keeping these office spaces sustainable is management’s responsibility.
To reap the benefits of a green office for a longer period, make sustainability a part of your corporate culture. Involve your employees in a sustainable lifestyle in the office—waste reduction, walking to meetings, going paperless, etc. There are many ways to go green and you can make a green office checklist for employees to follow.
Author bio: Charlene Ara Gonzales is a design writer who works closely with the Sydney architects of Superdraft Pty. Ltd.