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Below is possibly the best statement I’ve heard regarding sustainability:
‘Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
– Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future
Over the last few years, sustainability has become more and more important to mankind. We hear about it everywhere now – it’s in the news, there’s government legislation about it, and more and more people are demanding sustainable practices to make sure we leave this Earth in good shape for future generations.
Now, I’m not going to go into a rant about how terrible it is that some countries aren’t pulling their weight or that the government isn’t potentially doing enough, I just want to raise a bit of awareness around sustainability in our industry, and why it’s massively important that we educate and inform companies to make sure they’re acting responsibly and making the best choices when it comes to finding and fitting out an office. This isn’t a sales pitch, I just want to impart some knowledge and advice that hopefully will help someone out there make better choices in regard to their future office.
So, if you’re looking for a new office space or a new office fit-out, here are three ways that can really help you act with sustainability in mind.
Point 1 – Sustainable Space
The first point is making the right space choices. Now, you may know how many desks you have now, you may have massive growth plans and ambitions that will massively grow your headcount. You may have a three, five, or ten-year plan of how many desks and people you’re going to have in your business.
My question to you is, do you need all the space you think you need, and do you need all the desks you think you need? With things like hybrid working becoming more and more popular, companies are finding they don’t need to take as much space as they previously thought. They need fewer desks because employees aren’t going to be in the whole time, and by use of a simple booking system, employees can help plan their journeys to the office and let everyone else know when they’re going to be there. Others can then plan around that as well, helping everyone to come into the office and have a desk when they want to, and then when they’re home there’s space for other people to come and work on that desk.
“…do you need all the space you think you need, and do you need all the desks you think you need?”
There are companies that will help you look at your current needs, your current space, and requirements, and help you really plan your journey out and work out what space you’re going to need and how many desks you’re going to need. This helps you really think about your plans in detail and you might find you need less space than you previously thought. This is great in terms of sustainability because obviously there’s not as much space so you’re not having to have as big a fit-out, there are fewer materials being used, and also you’re saving money on rent!
Point 2 – Sustainable Contractors
The second point is to bring on board a sustainability-focused design and build contractor. Now, I don’t want this to come across as a sales piece in any way or form. We do focus on sustainability a lot, but you need to do your own research and find a fit-out contractor that works for you.
All I would say is – make sure that sustainability is at the forefront of the design and build process because this is a massive part of helping you make your fit-out as sustainable as possible. Make sure you challenge any designers or contractors you’re using to make sure that they are acting in a sustainable way and doing everything they can to make your project as sustainable as it possibly can be.
“Make sure that sustainability is at the forefront of the design and build process…”
Point 3 – Sustainable Materials and Furniture
The third point is really a challenge aimed back at yourself, the client. Make sure that you are open to new ideas, new ways of working, new materials, and new furniture ideas. There are a lot of products now that are really, really sustainable, and making sure you incorporate these into your process, can really, really help boost the sustainability of your project.
A couple of good examples of sustainable materials that we’ve personally used is reclaimed flooring that’s been taken out of old Victorian buildings which we repurpose, refinish, and put down into an office space. We also use products like Smile Plastics, which is a company that makes surfaces and tabletops out of reclaimed yogurt pots and other waste plastics.
Another great way of boosting the sustainability factor is to use remanufactured furniture. This is furniture that’s been taken out of a project, been sent away to a specialist company that has stripped it down re-upholstered it, replaced any bits that might be missing or broken, cleaned it up, and sent it back into a new office space.
“…make sure that you are open to new ideas, new ways of working, new materials, and new furniture ideas…”
Now, the benefits of this, obviously, are the fact that it’s being reused and has minimal impact on the environment when it is being remanufactured. Other benefits to clients are really high-quality furniture at a lot better price, and the aesthetics of your project is massively improved if you have really nice furniture.