Offices are becoming greener amidst growing demands that companies act on their commitments for creating sustainable and net-zero environments. And there are plenty of ways companies are handling this. From smart technologies to innovative design, there’s a lot that can be done to make an eco-friendly building. Plus, many of these sustainable practices also improve the environment for workers as well, leading to greater attraction and retention, especially for the eco-conscious.
According to a survey done by JLL , up to 81% of workers aged 21 to 30 expect their company to follow sustainable business practices, and 70% of them would prefer to work for a sustainability leader.
So here, we’re looking at five ways businesses can make their office more sustainable, from the simple to the complex.
Incorporating Natural Touches into Spaces
The intentional introduction of nature into the built environment, otherwise known as biophilia, has evolved far beyond its original perception. The research backing its usage has come a long way as well. More than a wellness element to help boost employee mood and productivity, biophilic elements, when added to a building, can also greatly improve the building’s performance.
For instance, simply allowing natural light to enter into the space has been found to lower energy costs from lighting alone up to 80%. At the same time, allowing sunlight into a space has been found to have an incredibly beneficial effect on employee wellbeing and energy.
Another biophilic element in high demand today, green roofs and green walls, also help improve building efficiency on top of adding a relaxation respite area for workers. According to the University of Plymouth, either adding a biophilic installation, or simply allowing greenery to grow on an outside wall was able to reduce heat loss in a building by 30% without insulation. A landscaped roof has been shown to have similar effects.
Both additions help cool buildings during the summer as well. This can be incredibly beneficial in areas that are known for extreme heatwaves, as less energy can be spent cooling buildings while still maintaining appropriate thermal comfort for office workers.
In the realm of sustainability, the topic of water consumption is one that often gets overlooked in conversation. This, however, does not mean that it isn’t at the top of workers’ minds when it comes to how their office building runs.
According to JLL, six in 10 workers want universal adoption of 100% water recycling in offices. But it’s not just about employee satisfaction. Recycling and conserving water also maximizes energy use and saves costs.
By having most of the water supply positioned onsite, less energy is used pumping it in from other sources constantly. In addition, less reliance is placed on external water sources, allowing for greater resiliency in the event of outages on the main line.
Installing Smart Windows
As we mentioned previously, light can be a huge benefit to an office space, but in the right amount. During the colder months, plenty of light means more warmth and less heating required, but during the summer, light translates to unwanted heat in an office space. That’s not to mention the glare that light in the wrong places can produce.
Thankfully, building technology has advanced to a point where glass can automatically adjust transparency and tinting throughout the day to control light levels. Having these types of windows added to a building can help reduce the load on a company’s HVAC system during the summer and lead to reduced energy expenditures in the long run.
According to a Cornell University study, smart windows also offer significant health advantages such as reducing eyestrain by 51% and headaches by 63%.
Utilizing AI and IoT for Smarter Systems
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) can go a long way in improving the intelligence of a building. With the right software making decisions based on specific data points, environmental systems like HVAC and lighting can be made to run only when absolutely needed.
A firm like BeeBryte, for instance, uses its software to predict thermal needs in buildings based on a variety of factors such as weather conditions and building occupancy. Then, using that information, the software adjusts HVAC setpoints in real tie to save up to 40% of energy costs without sacrificing comfort.
Encycle has a similar offering that integrates with multiple smart building systems to gather data from the building environment. It also allows individual HVAC units to communicate with one another to better coordinate loads on each individual unit.
The average office building holds a wealth of data that can help fuel more ecological decision making within its systems. What matters, however, is capturing and using it intelligently generate greater operational efficiencies.
Adding Options for Personalization
A unique option for businesses, and one that has already been tested in multiple offices around the world, is the idea of adding options for workers to customize their environments to their preferences.
For instance, an experimental office housed within a zero-energy building in Singapore offers a personalized cool fresh air supply duct with adjustable air volume at each desk. This allows the surrounding air conditioning to be set at a lower air supply rate without compromising comfort for the desk occupant.
Sustainability and Wellness Becoming Key Differentiators
Much like how wellness continues to add value to office spaces, the demand for sustainability (and likewise its value) in the office will only increase as time progresses. Aside from the immediate benefits of reduced energy consumption and greater interior comfort, the incoming workforce of environmentally-savvy employees will see these types of initiatives as major distinguishing factors when choosing a place of employment.