For decades now, companies have embraced the opportunity to furnish their offices to reflect corporate culture and facilitate more productive working practices. Regular furniture replacement has had numerous drivers – design trends; opportunities to maximise space utilisation; new ‘ways of working’; corporate re-structuring. This appetite for change does, however, have a significantly negative impact on the environment.
Recent years have seen climate change and the importance of eco-friendly practices placed front and centre on the global stage, which has led to a demand for greener ways of working. In the business world, sustainability has become a key component in corporate development, with more and more companies becoming willing to work with commercial interior designers to create greener, more sustainable environments. Creating a workspace that is multi-functional and efficient, but also applying innovative methods to save energy, cut waste and boost the quality of life of all those involved is the key to success in this area.
What is a sustainable workplace?
Sustainable design is also referred to as environmentally conscious or responsible design. Using this concept, the purpose is to reduce the overall ecological footprint of an office by not only focusing on saving energy and natural resources, but also on increasing the wellbeing of employees, making them feel comfortable in the workspace and improving the quality of their lives.
With an eye for the future, an eco-friendly workspace must be able to function, look current and sustain itself for years to come. As manufacturers and designers, we need to be more aware of the impact our decisions have on the environment, and how we can reduce negative environmental impact through our design and production processes. Focusing on green practices may even attract customers who prefer to do business with companies that are eco-friendly.
Reduced carbon footprint and energy bills
One of the main goals of sustainable office design is to reduce energy consumption and waste, which involves gaining efficiencies across different areas of the business. This may include structural changes, such as adding insulation within external walls to preserve warmth, investing in solar panels, or installing skylights to maximise natural daylight and ventilation. There are also a number of green ways to incorporate artificial lighting throughout the workplace, ranging from dimming systems and occupancy sensors, to glass walls and LED lighting.
By using green design elements, offices can be transformed into healthy spaces. One trend we have seen gaining traction is the introduction of biophilic design. Being indoors for most of the working day, we need to increase our connectivity to the natural environment. Greener workspaces increase the levels of comfort and relaxation, and can be used both internally and externally to make significant energy savings. Outside, trees can be planted to shade the building from the summer heat, reducing the need for air conditioning, whilst bringing plants inside can improve air quality.
There are a number of innovative and aesthetically pleasing methods to incorporate sustainable furniture materials throughout the workplace. One of the most popular being upcycling. Otherwise known as creative re-use, this involves transforming waste or unwanted objects into a product of higher quality and environmental value. The end result is often a bespoke piece of furniture, which adds both character and a personal touch to the office space.
Employee satisfaction and wellbeing
By providing a more pleasant work environment for employees, businesses can increase staff morale and satisfaction levels. When employees feel more comfortable in the office, they tend to be less irritable, less distracted, more likely to be able to maintain concentration for prolonged periods of time, and therefore, more likely to produce better results.
Greener offices have the capacity to improve thought processing, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities of employees and this is where greener workspaces have the advantage. Research suggests that green-certified office buildings experience reduced absenteeism by decreasing instances of illness, which is important for overall productivity and will potentially save a lot of money for the company.
Employees and customers now expect companies to take a stand on environmental issues and work to make the world a better place. Environmentally responsible companies can also get an edge over their competitors and attract more business and talent.
The sustainable workplace incorporates eco-friendly materials, with recycled furniture, non-toxic paints and recyclable equipment at the top of the list. Manufacturing businesses, including Dams, are also opting to source materials locally, saving money and energy on transportation. These low-emission options reduce the environmental impact right across the supply chain, spanning from the manufacturing process to eventual landfill.
Dams Furniture is proud to continue to source its raw materials in our wood factory from responsibly managed forests using the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) chain of custody, and we continue our involvement in pioneering sustainability at all our operating sites and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Dams also use the independent Furniture Industry Research Association’s (FIRA) certification systems to assure ourselves and customers that the products we manufacture meet strict quality and sustainability criteria. FIRA standards provide additional peace of mind for customers that furniture purchased from Dams will not only meet health and safety, ergonomic and corporate social responsibility requirements, but will also stand the test of time.
The future is now
It’s important to stress that sustainable design isn’t limited to preserving natural resources; it is also concerned with enhancing the wellbeing of employees. Several companies have adopted this new way of providing a healthy and happy work environment for their employees and are reaping the benefits. To sum it up, a sustainable workplace design saves energy, saves money, saves the planet, and makes people happier, healthier, and more productive.
For sustainable design to be effective, the workforce needs to believe in the eco-friendly practices it promotes. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ perspective on what sustainable design includes, especially when you need to factor in the current building conditions, plus the customer requirements and budget. But once you make sustainability a priority in the workplace, even the little things you do will make a big difference.