Environmental consciousness is the order of the decade. Whether you’re a young company establishing a seat in your city or an independent entrepreneur with a home office base, you’ll want to join the green wave – and ride it long-term.
We took a few hints from Australian trends, where sustainable business practices are heavily encouraged and promoted. Here’s how they do it:
Identify your sustainability goals
Being sustainable can mean a few different things in practice. You need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Exactly how do you want your office to benefit from this design project? Are you simply looking to reduce your energy bills? Do you want to extend the functional lifespan of a space? Is this a bid to improve office morale and staff wellbeing? Maybe it’s a brand reputation move, or you want to help lead the way towards a revolutionary workplace of the future? Perhaps you’re even striving to earn an official environmental rating with the relevant Energy Agency in your country or territory?
When you have a clear sustainability goal in mind, you can plan for that specific level of investment. You’ll know how much money, time, effort, labour, and administrative shenanigans you will need, and you can prepare accordingly.
Commit to local sourcing
We mean suppliers and labour as well as materials. Keeping your chain of services as local as possible directly reduces the carbon footprint of the whole project. With locally sourced materials and locally based contractors less fuel is spent on transportation, meaning fewer harmful emissions. You also contribute to the sustainable development of your community by supporting the local economy.
Finally, you can expect better availability and higher quality of materials and service. Local businesses will have a better understanding of the area’s legal regulations and climate patterns. They’ll be able to provide what’s best suited to your particular environment and make sure it’s all up to standard.
Invest in resource-efficient installations
Electric energy and water are the two factors in your office design with the greatest environmental impact. Subpar plumbing and wiring can cause long-term issues like inefficient heating and cooling, mildew, mould, risk of electric injury, etc. These are all health and safety hazards as well as a waste of resources. Invest more in quality solutions upfront to save yourself all sorts of expenses down the line.
Remember to collaborate locally – for instance, look for a plumber in Gold Coast if you’re located in Eastern Queensland or a certified, licenced electrician in Townsville if your office is more to the north of the region. You get the picture. Ask for an inspection and replace anything old, worn out, or faulty. Consider installing modern fixtures such as LED lights, solar panels, under-sink filtration systems, low-flow and low-pressure plumbing, or even rainwater harvesting systems (great if you include plants in your office design).
Insist on eco-conscious materials
Forget unnecessary paper, single-use plastics, and nasty polyesters. Start scrutinizing the materials of any and all office supplies you bring into your newly designed space. Look for a certification of Forest Stewardship (or whatever it’s called in your area) on any wood pieces you purchase. Look for hemp or flax upholstery, or recycled fabrics whenever you can. Ditch the traditional stationery and switch to digital bookkeeping, note-taking, and wiki-type office knowledge bases.
Australian businesses set a great example here, especially the younger professionals – Millennials in Oz lead the way in sustainable business by getting rid of paper and plastic in their workplaces, implementing recycling programs, and more.
Opt for multifunctional furniture
Choose sturdy pieces that will serve you for a long time and do more than one thing each. It’s more cost-effective in the long run, reduces the waste your office produces, and overall helps reduce resource consumption. Look for quality materials that can withstand wear and tear, always choose to repair things before you think to replace them, and try to select furniture that can still be repurposed or somehow reused after it has run its initial course.
Multifunctional office furniture will be a great ally in this effort. You can relocate it around the office as needed and fulfil different purposes in different places at different times. Consider height-adjustable desks, foldable tables that can also be shelving, seats that are also discreet storage trunks, and so on. There are plenty of clever options on the market, so take your time exploring.
Turn to biophilic design
Finally, beyond the strict practicality, make a point of eco-friendly office aesthetics as well. If you haven’t heard of biophilic design before, it’s a philosophy of incorporating natural elements and processes into man-made environments. To put that in context, try doing the following:
- Choose furniture and fixtures in organic shapes
- Incorporate lots of natural light
- Have outdoor views and plants indoors
- Have a rooftop garden
- Design nature-themed common spaces
Biophilic design minimizes the need for artificial lighting and air filtration, which reduces your energy consumption. It also makes for a healthier, stress-free environment, which improves employee well-being, mood, creativity, and cognitive function – ultimately resulting in better business all around.
Think of your office design project as an ecosystem of its own: source everything you can locally, remember that natural materials are your friends, and focus on long-term maintenance vs. mid-term replacements. The hot green trend is really just a collection of a few smart decisions.