Transform your office into a sustainable model for the future
By the end of 2019, European offices took up approximately 9.2 million square meters of real estate. That’s about four and a half times the size of Monaco.
For each office, each company, each employee, there is an environmental impact. There are direct considerations; from the consumption of utilities to the architecture of the building itself. Then there are more indirect considerations, from the commutes of all employees to the company data storage.
Myriad factors add into the calculation of an office’s sustainability. According to an EU report, as of 2020, roughly 75% of the EU building stock was considered energy inefficient. Reportedly, buildings in the EU are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU calls for smart solutions and energy efficient materials, largely outlined in a variety of government initiatives, such as the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package and the European Green Deal.
Although these are high level government implementations, there are still things individuals and companies alike can do to mitigate harmful effects on the environment.
The term “sustainable architecture” may sound like something exclusively for hipster coffee shops – it’s actually an up-and-coming form of architecture and design. It seeks to minimize the negative impacts a building and it’s construction have on the environment by employing innovative green methods.
According to AD&V, a sustainable architecture & interior design firm, these include, but are not limited to: “energy-saving technology, sustainable materials, recycling, repurposing, and other elements that support long-term ecological balance.” It’s not just aesthetically pleasing, the United States Green Building Council estimates that, on average, green buildings reduce energy consumption by 30%, carbon emissions by 35%, water consumption by 30% to 50%, and waste costs by 50% to 90%.
These buildings are both cost- and energy-efficiency. In addition, research also shows that they can increase employee performance, productivity, and job satisfaction. This is further proven by our latest article about sustainable leadership.
If designing and building a new office isn’t soon, fear not, there is still plenty to be done. Simple and easily applicable changes can make a big difference. For example, standardized office hours (7:00 to 19:00) would allow all electricity and utility consumption to take place during that window alone, as opposed to all hours.
Even though it’s hot during the European summer months, AC regulation is another way to reduce energy usage at the office. When possible, opt for recyclable, reusable, or repurposed office items. Motion sensors for energy-sensitive office amenities, such as lights in restrooms and faucets can help keep us green in our most forgetful moments. Access to natural light, fresh air greenery (yes, even a desk plant), all reduce energy consumption and improve employee wellbeing.
It’s vital to share ideas with the company, co-workers, and friends.
A Carbon Trust survey found that 67% of employees want to help their companies reduce carbon emissions, but don’t know how. If your office is in a green transition, don’t hesitate to actively support the initiatives and share new ideas, too.
Opportunities for Offices
The density and sheer amount of information regarding green offices can be overwhelming. Resources have become plentiful; it’s difficult to narrow down the best options. Sharing ideas is great; practical solutions are even better. Check out the information below as a foundation for your company, and office, to flourish in a greener arena.
- Allow employees to choose from a hybrid remote work model, this is an eco-friendly and employee friendly route to reduce stress, the environmental impact of commutes, office utilities, etc.
- Consider relocating to a green coworking space, not only will this do good for the planet, it allows your employees more flexibility
- Become a part of Build Up, a portal for energy efficiency in buildings, they offer training sessions, webinars, publications, and country fact sheets to ensure energy efficiency requirements are met (managed by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME))
- Check out Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever, with nearly 80 billion Euros of funding available that attracts private investment and promises taking energy efficient ideas from the lab to the market.
- Interested in pursuing an energy efficiency project in your office? Read more about the European Investment Bank (EIB)’s financing opportunities here
- Get involved with the Green Consumption Pledge Initiative, a voluntary cooperation between the EU and businesses of all kinds to increase sustainability
- Future-proof your business in non-traditional ways, it’s about sustainability and people
Not ready to approach HR yet, or just working from home? There are still many opportunities to be green. One small action may not seem enough in the face of a daunting climate crisis, but many small actions over a lifetime do a world of good. Small adjustments to everyday habits are possible and do make a difference.
- Consider eco-friendly office supplies that are good for the plant and for your body, such as the noho move chair
- Check out this list of 32 ethical and eco-friendly office supplies
- It may sound silly, however, bring lunch from home! Ordering a pricey and no-so-environmentally friendly UberEats can be easily avoided
- Be more aware of your surroundings, did you turn off that light? Does the water need to be running the whole time? Can you use a blanket instead of a space heater?
- How are you getting to work? Your mode of transportation impacts the environment, is it possible to walk or bike?
- Restock reusable pens, question your printing practices (or at least buy eco-friendly paper), power down the computer at the end of the day, get rid of screen savers, buy second-hand, ditch paper towels, and put plants everywhere.
- EU Buildings Factsheets | Energy (europa.eu)
- European office take up to reach 9.2 million m² by the end of 2019 (europe-re.com)
- Countries Compared by Geography > Area > Total. International Statistics at NationMaster.com
- Energy Efficiency Trends in Buildings in Europe | Policy brief | ODYSSEE-MURE
- In focus: Energy efficiency in buildings | European Commission (europa.eu)
- Clean energy for all Europeans package | Energy (europa.eu)
- A European Green Deal | European Commission (europa.eu)
- Promoting energy efficiency (eib.org)
- What is Horizon 2020? | Horizon 2020 (europa.eu)
- Green Consumption Pledge Initiative | European Commission (europa.eu)
- BUILD UP | The European portal for energy efficiency in buildings
- Sustainable Coworking Spaces (coworkingresources.org)
- Sustainable Office Design is Good, Sustainable Business (alvarezdiazvillalon.com)
- This Earth-Friendly Ergonomic Chair Is Designed To Move With Your Body (futurism.com)
- Future-proofing your business isn’t about tech — it’s about these 3 key elements (thenextweb.com)
- 32 Ethical and Eco-Friendly Office and School Supplies (ecowarriorprincess.net)
- 30 Easy Ways to Go Green in the Office (americanexpress.com)
Great advise found in this article: Allow employees to choose from a hybrid remote work model, this is an eco-friendly and employee friendly route to reduce stress, the environmental impact of commutes, office utilities, etc.
Hybrid models are the future of the professional life and the positive aspects should be taken highlighted! IT’s not only about the positive effect on the environment but it still allows people to feel team building and a sense of partnership in their daily work life !
Thank you Alex! We appreciate your comment!
I think it’s good to look at sustainable offices from two perspectives: what the company can do, and what employees themselves can do. With just one, it’s hard er to make effective changes.
Great article, interesting content – excited to read more!