Sustainable Office Design Trends In 2019

Sustainable Office Design Trends In 2019

We’ve always held sustainability as a cornerstone to our designs bringing this through to our projects as much as we possibly can. Our clients are increasingly asking us to consider this in more depth than ever before as sustainability issues rise to the fore for businesses. The market economy requires a healthy environment to continue business as usual and without it, crops will fail, people will be displaced, and resources will be depleted. In short, the economy depends on a thriving ecology.

Part of the process of transitioning to a sustainable economy involves sustainable office design. Not only does sustainable office design help to protect the environment, but there’s also evidence that it is positive for employee health and can also improve the bottom line.

In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into some of the biggest office trends of 2019.

Sustainable Materials

The definition of what constitutes a sustainable material has a lot of grey areas. Sustainable materials are, in general, those that can be sourced indefinitely without causing irreparable damage to the environment. But these “wonder” materials rarely exist. Instead, sustainable office design relies on choosing materials that lay on a spectrum of sustainability, according to a set of criteria.

For example:

  • How much water does the material consume during manufacturing?
  • How much energy does it require to extract the material and process the material?
  • Is the material toxic to human or animal healthy?
  • How much does the material weigh?
  • How long does the material last and can it be recycled once it reaches the end of its useful life?

 

No material can perfectly satisfy all these criteria, but some achieve more than others. For instance, bamboo grows quickly, requires little energy to extract and process, is non-toxic and can be recycled into compost. What’s more, on a pound-for-pound basis, bamboo is stronger than steel and traps more carbon than traditional sustainable materials, like pine.

Smart Methods To Increase Natural Light

Lighting has an enormous impact on worker productivity and wellbeing. A study by the Compaq Corporation, the computer hardware giant, found that workers wanted their offices to deliver daylight more than anything else. Daylight boosted feelings of wellbeing and engagement, encouraging higher productivity.

How are companies utilising natural light in their offices?

Rather than using windows, some companies are making use of light pipes or light tubes – special devices which transport light from the roof down to the interior of a room. Light pipes rely on a highly reflective internal surface to transmit light, rather than electricity, and deliver natural light that workers prefer.

Light shelves are a kind of device that reflects light from the sun into the interior ceiling of a room, reducing glare while improving overall ambient light conditions. Studies show that increasing natural light in a room using this method can enhance the quality of learning by more than a quarter.

Many offices shirk large windows that allow in plenty of daylight because of the risk of glare during the summer months, preferring to use artificial lighting methods instead. However, with the help of light shades, there’s no need to make such a compromise. Light shades allow natural light to enter a building while eliminating heat and glare.

Since lighting takes up about 40 per cent of the energy requirements of commercial buildings, using natural light could be a great way to reduce the overall energy use of businesses.

Recycled, Non-Toxic Furniture

For many office-based businesses, furniture takes up the lion’s share of their material requirements. Ecologically-responsible companies are, therefore, looking for furniture suppliers who provide them with non-toxic, long-lifecycle, furniture made of recycled materials.

There are already some exciting sustainable furniture brands on the market that claim to have all but eliminated their impact on the environment. For instance, Herman Miller has committed itself to reduce its landfill impact to zero and to remove all hazardous materials from its products and production processes.

Sustainable furniture is made of recycled materials, is easy to repair, contains few, if any, volatile organic compounds, and is distributed in recyclable or reusable packaging. Companies are focusing on trying to make furniture with as few parts or components as possible, reducing the costs of repair for businesses. Again, therefore, it seems that the movement towards sustainability will have ramifications that will increase productivity and reduce overall replacement costs.

Hanging Gardens

The urban heat island effect occurs when buildings trap and store heat from the sun and then release it over time, increasing ambient temperatures. The problem with the urban heat island effect is that it increases air-conditioning requirements in the summer, forcing energy use up.

Sustainable office design tries to mitigate this issue by including plants. Not only do plants help to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, but it also reduces heat buildup. Plants naturally transpire, and when they do, they cool their surroundings.

Top sustainable offices in 2019, therefore, are beginning to experiment with hanging gardens. These are vertical gardens installed within office blocks that contain mosses, vines and roses, that help to capture CO2 and reduce heat in the surrounding area.

Water Capture Systems

Offices get through enormous quantities of fresh water every year. Flushing toilets, watering gardens, and washing hands all takes a toll on local water resources which all has to be pumped to the building using energy mainly derived from fossil fuels. Offices, therefore, need to make better use of water. But how?

Water capture is the process of collecting and using water that naturally arrives at the site of the business in the form of rainfall. Rainwater falls onto the roof of the office building and then gets collected in tanks at the bottom of gullies. It can then be used to water plants, flush toilets, and cool server racks. The toilet flushing application is particularly important. Data suggest that toilet flushing may comprise more than 30 to 40 per cent of water use in non-industrial buildings.

So, there you have it…the top sustainable office design trends for 2019. If you’d like to discuss how you can implement changes with your office design then get in touch with us.