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Sustainability and energy efficiency are no longer just the feel-good goal of offices, they have become integral to how buildings are run. It isn't just a matter of doing what's right for the planet - controlling heating, ventilation and lighting means saving money, too.

From a young age we are taught to turn off lights, switch off computers after use and recycle. But it is sometimes easy for those actions to be forgotten among the hectic everyday goings-on in the workplace.

Lest we forget, the actions of office workers can make a difference from within, yet according to the Carbon Trust Survey, 67% of employees say while they want to help their company reduce carbon emissions they do not know how.

So here we take a look at ten ways that workplace design features can integrate environmental action into everyday office life.

Best Practice Planning

The planning stages of office design are crucial in ensuring long-term energy saving - more specifically, to maximise space, daylight and the availability of fresh air. A well-designed workplace requires less infrastructure, produces less heat, and consumes less power than traditional workplaces.

Traditionally, assigned office space is redundant about 65% of the time.

Implement Energy Efficiency Measures

Zonal controls on heating, ventilation and lighting allow the energy to only be used where it is needed, and not spread through the entire building unnecessarily.

Sub-metering goes even further, measuring specific energy consumption by particular areas, or even particular items of equipment.

Low-flow taps and water-wise toilets can reduce an office's water consumption drastically.

Government and Corporate Legislation

When it comes to environmental impact, there are countless legal requirements offices must comply to, and these are only likely to increase. Compliance is necessary, but if you take these into account early on, they may help you to identify problem areas and reduce the impact of having to deal with these later.

Involve Your Employees

Why not carry out a staff survey to understand what employees want from the workplace? It may be that they have some ideas on how to reduce energy consumption that you might not have thought of.

Promoting recycling and energy campaigns through the office with emails, competitions and on the intranet will give employees the sense that you are all in it together. Why should energy saving be just another responsibility?

Maximise Office Comfort

With air conditioning systems being costly and harmful to the environment, anti-glare windows can help to maintain the suggested ambient temperature of 21.5°C, and as an added bonus almost eliminate glare from your computer screens.

Apart from that, a demand-controlled ventilation system can ensure optimum air quality and produce energy savings of 20-50%, while improving comfort and productivity of staff.

Use Sustainable Materials

Conduct a Green Screen of the products you use in your office fit-out. Take a look at the following:

% of recycled resources used in the manufacture of the product

What % of the product is recyclable at the end of its life? It is third party certified (e.g. Greenguard, or MDBC Cradle to Cradle)?

Look at whether the product has reduced chemical content, e.g. low VOC emissions in carpets

Where is it made? What's its carbon mileage?

Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs)

ECAs are a straightforward way for a business to improve its cash flow through accelerated tax relief, achieved by investing in energy-saving products.

Office refurbishments are the perfect time to benefit from capital allowances and their associated tax relief, allowing you to claim 100% against Corporation Tax of the benefit in the first year.

Consider Using BREEM and Ska Ratings

BREEM (Buildings Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a global scheme that rewards designs which take positive steps to minimise their environmental impact. The BREEM for offices has been designed with professionals in mind, allowing them to fully understand the potential environmental savings that come with office redesign.

Ska Ratings have been developed by consultants, contractors and occupiers, to encourage good practice in commercial interior fit-out work. It provides a rating system to effectively compare environmental performance.

Choosing a contractor that takes these into account can help to accurately quantify and maintain your energy savings.

Smart waste disposal

Setting up an office recycling scheme involves setting up the infrastructure, and arranging for a collector to regularly collect materials. After that, it's all about spreading the word, and implementing recycling bins into your office fit-out.

When getting rid of furniture, to divert waste from landfill, consider donating to charity, or separate materials for recycling.

Choose the Right Contractor

There's a lot to consider when choosing the right commercial interiors contractor, as ensuring they have the right environmental credentials is vital.

Make sure that sustainability is at the front of their minds - do they have an in-house Environmental Management Team? Can they offer BREEM or Ska assessments? Can they provide you with the right advice on sustainable materials?

How do you plan to integrate workplace actions into saving the planet? It might sound like a tall order but step-by-step each business, department and employee can make a difference in its own way.

- by Guenaelle Watson

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