The built environment accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Construction professionals are targeting commercial buildings to decrease atmospheric and surface-level pollution. Business owners are adopting eco-friendly office spaces to shrink their carbon footprints and meet eco-consumers’ demands.
Last year, low-impact construction was a hot topic at the COP26 summit. Sustainable offices can help companies stay ahead of government regulations and avoid future fines. Builders and business owners may construct eco-friendly offices by first assessing their current sustainability limitations.
Why Offices Can Struggle To Be Sustainable
Commercial buildings are responsible for a significant majority of global pollution. Most office emissions come from fossil fuel energy sources, and about 84% of the global power supply derives from fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is this the case? Lights use the most electricity in commercial buildings and contribute to indirect pollution. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems also use a significant amount of energy and contribute to an office’s carbon footprint.
Plus, many workspaces rely on freshwater from conventional sources. High water demand from large teams of people creates a greater need for responsible water management.
The building and design of the office plays a role here, too. An office’s building materials contribute to its eco-friendliness. Eco-conscious builders are conducting office space renovations to shrink companies’ footprints and enhance conservation efforts — while creating modern and stylish appearances to please their clients.
Next, we’ll dive into the trends that are making office buildings more sustainable workplaces.
1. Adopting Solar Power
The solar industry is developing technological advancements to support sustainable commercial buildings. Business owners, not unlike homeowners, can improve their eco-friendliness by reducing their fossil fuel energy reliance and installing solar.
The technology behind solar power is getting better every few years. With solar panel installations becoming more affordable than ever, even smaller business owners can consider supplementing their energy use with renewable sources. Furthermore, advancements in energy storage systems allows larger buildings to support greater usage with less fear of power failure.
New designs help, too. Many companies are improving the design of rooftop panels to increase renewable power’s compatibility with a traditional roof aesthetic. Solar shingles generate emission-free electricity without compromising an office building’s design. They are also more efficient because they eliminate external wiring and prevent weather-related damage.
Another technological advancement supporting renewable energy production is solar windows. Like rooftop panels, solar windows use photovoltaic technology to generate sustainable electricity. Environmental engineers improved conventional solar cells by making them transparent. Construction professionals can replace traditional window panes with solar versions to support clean energy production.
2. Using Low-Impact Building Materials
Builders can also improve an office’s sustainability by conducting renovations with low-impact building materials. Many building and construction professionals are designing commercial spaces with sustainable materials like bamboo, cork and reclaimed wood to give offices a modern and eco-friendly edge.
Recycled and reclaimed materials in particular can shrink an office space’s footprint. Some builders add cellulose insulation, made from recycled newspaper, to structures instead of environmentally degrading alternatives.
Design professionals can also reduce material waste by calculating an office’s furniture demand before purchasing goods. The growth of hybrid workplaces means determining furniture needs is more challenging than before — collaborative spaces, permanent workspaces and hot desks are all critical to think about.
However, keeping collaborative spaces close-knit can help designers focus on essential furniture in a work culture where 73% of meetings only include two to four people. Building out and furnishing space with intention keeps eco-friendly offices looking beautiful while staying streamlined and functional.
3. Installing Water Recycling Systems
Most offices rely on conventional freshwater sources to support sinks, water fountains, dishwashers, and other devices. Businesses can shrink their water footprints by installing water recycling systems. Rainwater harvesting devices repurpose stormwater to eliminate freshwater exploitation.
The systems capture rainwater and snowmelt runoff. A pump moves the water directly to an irrigation system or through a purification device. After a filter removes impurities, employees can use the stormwater for washing, drinking, bathing, and more.
Another source of pollution in office construction is transportation. Eco-friendly builders are using modular construction practices to minimize emissions and improve global environmental sustainability.
4. Modular Building Practices
Modular building is a construction process that occurs offsite. Builders assemble a structure in pieces using recycled materials with less energy than ordinary construction. Offsite construction reduces emission production and material waste compared to stick-built construction, making it easier and more eco-friendly to construct new office buildings.
After builders create the modules, they transport the components to a construction site. Bonding the components at once limits transportation emissions and improves a building’s envelope. As a result, these offices with tight envelopes are more energy-efficient and produce less HVAC waste.
Modular building is just one piece of the puzzle. Other sustainable construction methods include adaptive reuse, which chooses to convert older structures into modern offices and housing rather than building from scratch. Together, these building trends can help reduce the emissions and material waste that traditional building can generate.
Eco-Friendly Office Design Trends Make Waves
Before business owners hire an eco-friendly construction professional, they may receive an energy audit. The audit will highlight significant energy loss regions, which helps owners target sustainability-limiting building features. Then, they may hire an eco-conscious builder to plan a renovation project.
Construction professionals can prepare for renovations by accessing sustainable materials. They may also team up with local solar distributors and installation professionals. After taking the initial steps, builders and business owners can work together to improve an office’s sustainability.