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A sustainable workplace demands more than just the use of environmental and ethical materials; it also heavily relies on innovative designs that shape the occupier’s ability to commit to daily sustainable actions.
Businesses must keep up with the changing worldview of the environment and our growing curiosity about our individual impact on the environment. Monitoring energy and water use, waste management, tracking carbon impact and the promotion of employee well-being through biophilic design are all long-term benefits of an eco-friendly office. With climate change, rising demand for healthier buildings and acute focus on occupant well-being, its more important than ever to think about how office spaces adapt to sustainable practices which are good for property, people, and the planet.
In the past, the construction industry has been one of the main contributors to unsustainable practice, with at least a third of materials going to landfill. Recently, there has been a shift in attitude, resulting in less waste from construction sites and a move to reuse materials and furniture. There are suppliers who specialise in recycled furniture, and where this is not possible, new furniture chosen for its durability can be ethically sourced to reduce carbon footprint.
The building industry alone is responsible for 48% of GHG emissions out of which more than 7% impact is caused by the commercial sector. The workplace design process has evolved as well, with sustainability accreditations such as SKA or BREAAM rising to the top of the priority list for businesses considering an office redesign. Workspaces can be both aesthetically pleasing and innovative while still adhering to a sustainable framework and brief. Energy and water efficiency, as well as intelligent systems to manage temperature, lighting, and electronics, can all be incorporated into workplace designs. It all begins with an initial brief so that a sustainable approach can be used to drive the design throughout.
With sustainable workplaces in mind, what accreditations can both landlords and occupiers aim for?
The BREEAM accreditation recognises non-domestic buildings in the UK that have a low environmental impact. It provides a rating system for a building's interior and exterior, allowing for performance comparisons with other BREEAM-rated buildings and new non-domestic buildings. The process includes categories such as health and wellbeing, energy, water, and waste. After being rated, a building will receive a BREEAM accreditation with various benchmarks ranging from 'unclassified' to 'outstanding'.
LEED is a green building rating system that is widely recognised for providing building owners with a framework for implementing sustainable design. It takes into account all types of buildings, from new construction to interiors to core and shell. The accreditation takes a holistic approach to a building's entire life cycle, incorporating three pillars into its rating scale: people, planet, and prosperity. The framework exists to encourage the built world's positive impact on the environment and population. This credential can be applied across building design and construction, Interiors, Operations and maintenance and neighbourhood development.
Providing a best practice criterion for sustainability, the SKA rating aims to help both landlords and occupiers gain accreditation for fit-out projects. As buildings may have 30-40 fit-outs in their lifecycle, this accreditation enables project teams to fit out a building in a sustainable manner. It involves guidance on the fit-out process, an informal self-assessment, and a commissioned SKA evaluation by a qualified assessor. The overall standard can then be compared to other fit-outs across the industry.
WELL is a global set of strategies and tools that aim to improve people's health and well-being through design. The framework, which is backed by scientific expertise, assists businesses in designing buildings with the goal of being people-centric. The WELL accreditation uses flexible assessment categories such as light, materials, mind, and community to give an overall benchmark.
Fitwel is the one of the leading certification system committed to building health for all®. Generated by expert analysis of 5,600+ academic research studies, Fitwel is implementing a vision for a healthier future where all buildings and communities are enhanced to strengthen health and well-being.
Fitwel can be applied across most sectors such as commercial, multi-family residential, retail and senior housing. Post-pandemic, Fitwel has introduced a Viral Response Module that helps mitigate the risk of contagious disease transmission within interior spaces.
To create any brief, first you must understand what is the key purpose for change – Refurbish? Relocate? Re-design? Or to align with new sustainable company policies and goals? Does incorporating sustainable practices add value for your property and people? To begin, you can start with benchmarking your office or your entire real-estate portfolio against industry standards.
This can paint a realistic picture of where you stand and help make evidence-based decisions for way forward. It may be that your business wants to be more socially conscious, or to encourage employee wellness, which increases productivity and talent retention in the long term. With this information provided early in the design process, you can then consider which accreditations are appropriate for your project and your business needs to achieve your goals.
Contact us to find out how we can help your business achieve a sustainable design accreditation.