Can Office Fit Outs Be Sustainable?

Nic Pryke

by Nic Pryke

21.10.2013

It’s a valid question. After all, an office fit out means dealing largely with the internal envelope – the office layout, the furnishings and so forth. And the fast-track nature of a design and build project doesn't, theoretically, lend itself to environmental sustainability.

The simple answer, however, is yes. But to go as green as you can, sustainability needs to be considered from the outset and incorporated strategically, as a principal project aim. You also stand a greater chance of achieving a sustainability win if you’re relocating offices – energy efficiency performance should be a factor in choosing your new office building and a keen landlord should supply you with energy usage data.

We think a sustainable workplace has three primary attributes:
• The building envelope – the materials and structure itself.
• Gadgets and gizmos – the green technology that will support your carbon reduction and cost-efficiency aims.
• The company culture – without the support of your staff, the greenest office in the world won’t achieve what it’s capable of.


Can office fit outs be sustainable?
Sustainable workplaces


An environmentally sustainable building
Let’s assume that whether you’re fitting out your current office or moving to new business premises, there’s room for improvement. Depending on your fit out budget, there are all sorts of ways you can influence environmental performance, from added insulation to the inside of external walls to designing the office layout to maximise solar gain and reduce dependency on artificial lighting. You can make sure you have natural ventilation rather than expensive, energy-eating air conditioning. Even having adequate bicycle storage plays its part in supporting a green travel policy that cuts fuel emissions and costs. It’s essential that you choose a fit out partner with an ambitious sustainability policy and an understanding of passive sustainability measures.

Choosing the right green technology
A PIR sensor controlling the lights is the perfect example of green technology that can save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. But there are implications. You don’t want staff having to leap around the room to reactivate the lights because everyone’s so hard at work that the technology thinks you’ve all clocked off early. Neither do you want to be in a toilet cubicle when everything goes perilously dark. Real-life usability has to figure in sustainable design or your office refurbishment will frustrate rather than fulfil your goals. Across the board, from lighting control to water reduction to every aspect of M&E, there are ways of trimming away at the excess.

An energy usage audit of your existing office arrangement – a process far less complicated than you might think – provides an accurate way of bench-marking future performance and highlighting weaknesses in building, technology and working practices.

Creating the right company culture
If your people care, you’ll get better results and cut costs and carbon emissions. It’s as simple as that in principle. You need to encourage staff to conserve resources and follow well-thought-through practices, and then make it easy for them to do their bit by incorporating recycling and reuse into the fabric of the office and day-to-day working life. If you can show them the difference they’re making, so much the better.

Those aren’t the only areas where you can make a difference of course. Sourcing your utilities from providers with proven sustainability credentials; asking your fit out contractor for advice on sustainable building finance initiatives so you can invest in more to deliver a greater return in the long run. Not so long ago we demonstrated to one client that they could save £200K over 10 years with one perfectly sensible route… or as much as £400K over the same timeframe with an enhanced design solution.

And while quick wins are great, do think about the long term. If your budget is tight now, scrimp on some technology by all means, but don’t close the door to it. Incorporate the potential into your interior design and when the time is right and the money’s available, you can install the more expensive sustainability measures at a later date and begin to reap the rewards.

By getting expert input when you’re first thinking about redesigning or moving office, you’ll be amazed at just how sustainable your workplace could become.

If you want to know more about sustainable workplaces, get in touch with our team.

Browse our sustainable projects.

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