Sustainable workplace
29 April, 2024
The most exciting advancements in sustainable workplace design
Understanding the latest developments in sustainable workplace design.

Sustainability is one of the biggest topics of conversation in the workplace and beyond. However, where once upon a time businesses tended to pay lip service to both, now it’s become both a moral imperative and an astute commercial choice to take them seriously.

In addition, commitment to sustainability has been shown to be one of the top values for millennials and GenZs when it comes to choosing where to work. The Deloitte Global’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, reported in the Wall Street Journal, found that these younger generations of talent “are looking for their employers to reinforce and support their priorities around the environment and sustainability.”  

Practically, the design of your office has a significant impact on a business’s carbon footprint. For example, buildings that achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, recognised as the world’s most widely used green building rating system, typically have the following environmental advantages over their non-LEED counterparts:

  • Contribute 50% fewer greenhouse gases due to water consumption, 48% fewer due to solid waste, and 5% fewer due to transport
  • Produce 34% lower carbon emissions
  • Consume 25% less energy
  • Consume 11% less water

Meanwhile, the World Green Building Council writes: “Buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions: 28% from operational emissions, from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the remaining 11% from materials and construction.”

We could go on, but all this is to illustrate the significance of the buildings we spend so much of our time in and the impact they can have on the natural world around us. So, with that in mind, what are the latest innovations in sustainable workplace design?

Sustainable workplace

What contributes to sustainable workplace design?

Sustainability in the workplace hinges on four things:

  • The use of sustainable construction practices during the build, from minimising waste to optimising waste management and reducing energy consumption.
  • The development of an efficient infrastructure to optimise energy performance.
  • Decarbonisation through the use of renewable energy, efficient lighting and eco-friendly materials.
  • Creating an environment that fosters, promotes and enables sustainable practices and habits amongst the occupants after the space is complete. 

That means that an environmentally friendly approach to your office starts at the very beginning of the building selection and design of your space and continues well beyond the moment the construction team leaves the premises. This gives you a world of options for continuously committing to the health of the planet.

Sustainable workplace

The latest innovations in sustainable workplace design and build

With a growing commitment to sustainability in the workplace, more and more options are becoming available, from reclaimed materials to those using recycled components, those built for repair and disassembly, to simply ensuring they’re hard wearing and will have a long lifespan. There’s also the option to use paints made from natural or recycled materials, free of harmful chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Here are just some of the most exciting trends in sustainable building materials that are revolutionising office design and build, to give you an insight into what’s possible:

Bio-based insulation

Insulation is an important part of making a building energy efficient, but not a lot of thought was put into its green credentials until recently. For example, PUR/PIR, Polystyrene and Phenolic insulation materials are made from plastic – they’re non-renewable and their manufacturing process has high energy consumption. Increasingly there’s a move to ensure that changes, accounting for insulation’s provenance with the rise in bio-based insulation materials.

Areas of exploration include materials made from biological substances or byproducts such as soybean oil, castor oil or starch, which are usually biodegradable.

A particular area of interest is in mycelium – the root of mushrooms. It’s biodegradable, a powerful insulator, non-toxic, VOC free and fire safe.

Carbon-storing building materials

For many years the construction industry has contributed significantly to global carbon emissions, and we know that carbon storage is an efficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as storing carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. Carbon-storing building materials could be a neat way of helping to achieve that with materials that absorb more CO2 during their lifecycle than they emit.

A growing area of interest is in carbon-infused concrete, which not only stores carbon but also creates a reaction that means the material gets stronger over time. Our mycelium friend also plays a role in this, removing carbon from the atmosphere as it grows.

Other, more widely used, carbon-storing materials include plants like wood, hemp, straw and bamboo, which have sequestered carbon during their growth before being transformed into a building material.

Recycled and upcycled materials

Recycling and upcycling materials is not a new phenomenon, but more and more manufacturers are harnessing the practice to give people increasing options with greater levels of environmental sophistication. You can do it yourself simply by reusing items that you already have in your office and perhaps adapting or updating them rather than replacing them.

You can also buy certain elements second hand, and you can select materials that have done that work for you. For example, carpet-tile manufacturer Interface aims to make its entire product range carbon negative by 2040. They make their products from recycled plastic and biomaterials, saying they store more carbon than production emits.

Smart glass

Controlling room temperatures using heating or air conditioning uses a lot of energy, and combined with poor insulation it can result in both a substandard office experience as well as poor energy ratings. Insulation is one way of helping, but we all like an office with big windows and even when they’re double glazed it doesn’t necessarily make for optimum energy efficiency.

Smart glass could be an answer, offering soundproofing as well as reducing heat gain and heat loss. By adjusting its opacity based on the intensity of sunlight, it regulates temperatures and reduces your reliance on HVAC systems.

3D printed construction

Manufacturing is a big contributor to carbon emissions and energy use, and 3D printing is being hailed as a possible answer. With precision control over the amount of materials used to reduce waste, as well as maximising speed and efficiency, it can combine with the use of sustainable materials such as bioplastics or recycled concrete to bring a new frontier to building.

Sustainable workplace

Sustainable workplace design as standard

Maris stands committed to developing work and educational spaces that are not only healthy and resilient but also environmentally beneficial. This commitment is reflected in:

  • Our team, comprising BREEAM, LEED, and SKA accredited designers.
  • An award-winning Safety, Health & Environmental team.
  • An ISO 14001 certified environmental management system.
  • Recognition as a leading Green Company by the Sunday Times.
  • Our headquarters’ BREEAM Excellent rating, a benchmark in sustainable design.
  • In every client project, we integrate sustainability from design to construction.

When we work with a client, we want to make sure a space meets their needs in every way – that includes a commitment to the environment. That might be enshrined in certifications and awards, highlighted to your team with clear information to help them engage with the process in documents and signage, or simply built into your space so you know you’re doing your best. Either way, we’ve got the knowledge and the resources to make it happen.

Want to create a sustainable workplace for the wellbeing of your team and the environment?

Speak to the team at Maris