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Turn your Office Green (Without going into the Red)

Oct 12, 2007
Refurbishing an existing office space or creating a new office interior that has a negligible impact on the environment has a number of benefits to your company, your staff as well meeting business standards such as ISO 14001. By reducing your energy consumption and waste production, you can also save money in the long run, and create a more socially responsible corporate profile for investors. The most fundamental decisions you will need to make concern how your company will interact with built and natural environments, including where you locate your office and your choice of energy supplier. But, possibly with the help of your designer, you'll need to come up with ideas on how to make the best use of available space, how to find furnishings and fittings that have a minimal environmental impact, and how to encourage green behaviour in your staff. Do you have what it takes to turn your office green?

Waste
You can recycle any furniture you no longer need by donating to a local charity such as the British Heart Foundation. This will reduce the amount of landfill space, and the energy associated with producing new furniture. You should make sure that any asbestos or other potentially harmful products that you remove in the process of refurbishing or designing your office interior are disposed of safely.

Bathrooms can conserve water by using touch-sensitive taps and dryers (or use recycled paper towels), and taps in kitchens and bathrooms should have a single head that allow you to adjust the temperature rather than running them. Once you're moved in, you can cut down on heating costs by only heating rooms that are currently being used, and setting thermostats to switch off when the office is empty. You should also switch off any electrical equipment that isn't in use.

What new stuff to get
If you want to continue your commitment to recycling in a re-design, you should allow room for a recycling area, which could be conveniently located in one of your kitchens.

You may want to plan room for cycle racks and showers, which will encourage staff who live near enough to consider cycling or running to work and thus help to reduce carbon emissions. Any new soft furnishings or carpets you use should make use of natural fibres that minimise on toxic chemical by-products, and any furniture, paint and carpets you choose should be low in VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as formaldehyde, which can affect air quality both inside and outside the office.

All partitioning should be made from sustainably grown wood, and ceiling can be made from recyclable minerals or sustainably grown wood. Floors can be made from sustainable bamboo or biodegradable lino, or even make use of recycled metal or glass. A well-insulated building will help to reduce your heating costs, and any new heating or air conditioning systems you use should be energy efficient.

More on sustainability
You can allow for future changes to office requirements by using temporary fittings such as moveable walls. These can be made from a sustainable hardwood, or wallpapered panel, and should provide effective noise insulation and act as a fire barrier. While your new designs should make the most of natural light, you should use energy efficient, longwearing fluorescent light fittings, turning and lights off when rooms are not in use.

By minimising the amount of storage space you have in filing cabinets, you can encourage people to store things electronically, rather than printing documents unnecessarily and wasting paper and energy.

People
Creating an environmentally sustainable office environment can build morale and can reduce the chances of 'sick building syndrome', where the presence of harmful chemicals and faulty air conditioning can have been shown to adversely affect people's health and productivity. As long as you get staff on board, going green can be a great team builder, helping to improve job satisfaction and the self-esteem of staff. In terms of your corporate image, creating an environmentally friendly office interior will ensure you are seen as a modern, innovative and responsible organisation. The question becomes, can you afford not to go green?
About the Author
Shaun Parker has a keen interest in the development of office interiors. To find out more see http://www.meridian-interiors.co.uk
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