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Welcome to our sustainable office fit out guide. Your presence here shows that, like many other businesses, you are serious about reducing your carbon footprint and mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

Indeed, our planet is under severe strain. With people consuming resources at an unsustainable rate, we are witnessing pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss. While these problems are caused by human activity, we also have the tools, knowledge, and resources to create a better future for all.

In this guide, we will look into what you can do at the office fit out stage to minimise your environmental impact. From finding a suitable location to exploring eco-friendly office design choices and more, we offer a wealth of advice that you can put to good use on your fit out project.

A Note on the Meaning of “Sustainability”

Before we proceed, it is worth noting that the term “sustainability” refers to three pillars: social, environmental, and economic. When each pillar is achieved and the business model operates in harmony across all three areas, true sustainability is achieved.

In this blog post, we will cover the second pillar, which relates to aspects of your business that benefit the environment. If you would like to learn more about the other two pillars, please read our blog post, The Three Pillars of Sustainability.

Location Considerations

You should consider sustainability principles throughout the lifecycle of your occupancy, starting with the choice of a new space. When evaluating sustainability, it is important to consider both the location and the building.

In terms of location, it is best to choose a space that is accessible by public transportation, walking, and biking to reduce employee emissions. If possible, consider avoiding locations in areas with high traffic congestion or air pollution.

When it comes to the building itself, try to find one with a high Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, which indicates how energy efficient the building is. Buildings are graded from A to G, with A being the most efficient grade.

Related content: 7 Office Relocation Tips

Finding a Suitable Interior Fit Out Company

When looking for a company to carry out the works, it is important to choose a fit out contractor that is also committed to sustainability. This will ensure that your values are upheld, and your project contributes to a better environment.

Here are a few key aspects to look for when choosing your contractor:

  • Green mission statements Check to see if the company has a sustainability mission statement on its website. This will demonstrate its commitment to reducing climate change and outline its sustainability goals.
  • Programs and accreditations Look to see if the company participates in any programs like BREEAM, which is a sustainability assessment method and rating system for buildings. Some green-conscious contractors will also have local accreditations like STEM, which shows that they monitor their environmental impact and take steps to reduce it.
  • Project experience Ask the contractor to demonstrate how it puts its sustainability ethics into practice. For example, a good contractor will know how to develop a suitable on-site waste management plan, reduce fuel consumption during works (e.g., by using large vehicles to limit the number of trips), and calculate product quantities accurately to avoid unused materials ending up in landfill.

There is also no harm in scheduling a meeting with your preferred fit out contractor to highlight your commitment to sustainability. If the contractor is aligned with your values, its team will be able to give you a detailed rundown of everything it will do to maintain them.

Designing with the Planet in Mind

Adaptable Layout Design

To conserve resources, consider a flexible and easy-to-configure design. This will prevent large-scale construction works to accommodate change later. Here are some ideas:

  • Create an adaptable floor plan Avoid designing with too many fixed walls and partitions. Instead, create a floor plan that can be easily adapted to different layouts (open plan is ideal for this). This will give you more flexibility if your business needs change, or you need to make space for more employees.
  • Use demountable partitions Demountable partitions are specifically designed for flexibility. Unlike fixed walls, demountable partitions are easy to remove, meaning you can adapt the layout of your space without excessive demolition works that could impact the environment.
  • Buy modular furniture Modular furniture is also designed to be easily disassembled and reassembled, making it ideal for offices that need to be rearranged. Look for furniture pieces that can be easily combined and separated, such as movable workstations and seating.

Additionally, install adequate and well-positioned power and data outlets to accommodate any future changes. A good office design company with space planning expertise will take this into account when developing a floor plan.

Energy Efficient Lighting

Your lighting choices can play a significant role in reducing your energy consumption. It is common knowledge now that LED light fittings are one the most energy efficient solutions, but why stop there? Here are some more ideas to help reduce emissions:

  • Daylight harvesting Daylight harvesting uses natural light to reduce the need for electric lighting. There are many ways to facilitate daylight harvesting, such as placing desks near windows, installing controls that adjust lighting levels based on the amount of daylight, and using transparent materials for interior partitions.
  • Occupancy sensors Occupancy sensors can automatically turn off lights when people leave a room. This prevents lights from being left on unnecessarily, which can reduce electricity use by up to 30%.
  • Task lighting Task lighting, such as desk and floor lamps, can provide focused light for specific tasks, like computer work. This can help to reduce your reliance on overhead lighting, which can be a major energy drain.

Furthermore, remember to check out recycling guidelines when your bulbs lose power. Some contain components that can be harmful to the planet, so recycling correctly will make a positive difference.

Eco-Friendly Products

When choosing products for your fit out, it’s important to be conscious of their environmental impact.

The good news is that there are plenty of eco-friendly products on the market for offices, so the challenge is narrowing down the choice. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Recycled and partly-recycled furniture – Finding products made partly or fully from recycled materials can improve the resource efficiency of your office fit out. For example, the HAG range by furniture manufacturer Flokk (as featured at Clerkenwell 2022) includes the TAG Tion chair, which is made from 75% recycled material in total, including 94% post-consumer plastic and 97-98% aluminium.
  • Eco-friendly carpet – Many carpet companies take corporate social responsibility seriously, including Modulyss, which specialises in making sustainable products with the circular economy in mind. Such is Modulyss’s dedication that it is part of the Healthy Seas programme, which recovers end-of-life yarn, carpets and fishing nets and turns them into first grade nylon for carpets.
  • Low VOC productsVOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. High VOC levels can be harmful to human health and the environment, so make sure you assess products accordingly and seek low level alternatives where possible. In particular, pay attention to products such as paints, varnishes, coatings, adhesives, sealants and composite wood products.
  • Recyclable materials – It is important to choose furniture that is made from easily recyclable and renewable materials, such as wood. If you’re not sure where to start, a good interior design company will be able to specify a range of eco-friendly furniture that you may have not considered.

Another key tip is to find supplier that are registered with green regulatory bodies, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This highlights that they take environmental and corporate social responsibility seriously, typically by increasing recycling rates, reducing fuel usage by using alternative logistics strategies, and designing products that are environmentally conscious.

Some responsible suppliers, such as Orn, even have “buy back” schemes to help reduce landfill waste. It is said that up to 50% of reusable furniture ends up in landfill, so finding a supplier that can restore and recirculate products is a bonus.

Water Efficiency

Water is a precious resource, so you should take steps to conserve it whenever possible. One way to do this is to install water-efficient sanitary equipment and fittings, as this will help to reduce wastage.

If you’re looking at renting a modern office building, it’s likely the landlord would have already introduced water-efficient sanitary equipment as part of the CAT A fit out works. These features may include dual flush WCs, waterless urinals, and low flow taps and showers that mix air into water.

For buildings that don’t already have these features, it may be possible to “retrofit” water saving equipment. Retrofitting means improving work on an existing building to make it more energy efficient, so make sure you look for opportunities to do this. If it’s not possible to change older fittings, then you can still help by regularly checking for leaks and drips throughout your occupancy.

Related content – CAT A vs CAT B Fit Out Works: What’s the Difference?

Written by Chris Sparham

Thanks for Reading!

As you can see, carrying out a sustainable office fit out involves careful planning and expertise. Despite the challenges, taking these steps will ensure you play your part in limiting climate change and set you apart as a socially responsible and forward-thinking business.

What’s good for the planet is good for business too, so it makes sense to adopt sustainability from the moment you start looking for a new space. Just remember to consult the help of people whose values align with yours, as this will give you the best chance of achieving your sustainability goals.

Are You Looking to Create a More Sustainable Office?

If you need help with your office fit out, Rap Interiors can help. We have a team of experienced and knowledgeable design and build professionals who are experts in sustainable construction. From procuring sustainable materials to developing green design concepts and carrying out the works responsibly, we will meet your sustainability expectations from concept to completion.

To arrange a design consultation, please call 0333 600 1234 or fill out the enquiry form below.