From the popularity of open workplace concepts to the return of the office cubicle model in light of COVID-19, office design trends are constantly evolving to meet the changing nature of the workplace. Despite these changes to our workspaces, sustainability remains a core design principle that every office needs to adopt.
Sustainable office design involves using renewable or natural resources to create modern and functional spaces that elevate the human experience and safeguard employee wellbeing, without having an adverse effect on the environment. In the modern era whereby innovative workplace trends have become the new normal, green strategies are expected to be imbued in timeless design.
Below are three easily adaptable ecological design practices that will help support a healthier and more productive workforce.
Use sustainable materials
When designing are eco-friendly office, we should prioritise materials that have been or can be repurposed, reused and recycled. Incorporating sustainably sourced resources into an office fit out or re-design is both environmentally responsible and cost-effective.
Green building materials such as reclaimed lumber, recycled glass and PVC-free products can be used in creative ways for furniture, flooring, walls and more. Prefabricated wood in particular can be integrated into the office design through natural accents, providing warmth to an otherwise sterile environment. Utilising timber panelling in the office design also create the illusion of space and helps reduce noise around the workplace.
Some other sustainable design solutions include the use of recycle glass countertops, straw bale partitions instead of concrete walls and curtains made from recycled nylon.
Promote energy efficiency
Sustainable office design is not complete without efforts to reduce energy consumption. Business need to evaluate the energy effectiveness of their plumbing, lighting systems and heating and cooling technologies. Air conditioning in particular can be liability to electricity usage.
As an alternative to traditional air conditioning, companies can install renewable energy sources within a built environment. Solar thermal cooling relies on heat from the sun to generate cool air and dehumidify the surroundings, effectively reducing energy consumption. Another power-saving technique is to employ passive solar design solutions to provide natural cooling in the building without the need for air conditioning/
In term of lighting solutions, LED lighting last longer and have cheaper running costs compared to your conventional office lighting solutions. You can expect substantial savings on electricity bills and bulb replacements in the long run.
That said, natural sunlight remains the most sustainable source of lighting. Exposure to natural lighting have proven mental health benefits, which in turn influences workplace productivity. To optimise access to sunlight, install window walls and use smart glass panels rather than translucent screen in the office. Incorporate lightly-coloured and smooth interior surfaces whenever possible to effectively radiate sunlight throughout the space.
For greater energy efficiency in the office, implement a daylight harvesting system that will automatically adjust the amount of electric lighting required to light a room based on the availability of natural light.
Incorporate biophilic elements
Biophilic elements can be integrated into the office design to cultivate an eco-friendlier work environment. Biophilic design aims to bring manifestations of the natural environment within the built environment. It is used to foster the inherent bond that we have with nature and green spaces.
Biophilic design goes beyond adding a touch of greenery here and there. Designers can reproduce nature indoors though the use of natural forms like stone and wood, as well as vertical wall gardens and trickling water features. Sustainably sourced materials, colors, textures and lighting are other elements that can be strategically inculcated into the office to enhance the biophilic experience.
A biophilic approach helps to promote periods of rest and focus for employees and has a positive impact on their mental and physical health.
Importance of sustainability in the workplace
Sustainable office design is crucial in supporting employee wellbeing. In the current COVID-19 climate, it is imperative that businesses prioritise a healthy workforce. Through the implementation of green initiatives, organizations can provide their staff with a safe work environment where they can remain engaged and productive to reach to their full potential.