Sustainability in a workplace refers to an organization’s strategy to reduce negative environmental impact due to its operations in a specific market. Building a sustainable workspace is usually a gradual process—an organization may adopt some strategies but drop or substitute them later. They may also incorporate new strategies over time. For example, a company may adopt sustainable procurement and source its products and services from environmentally responsible suppliers. This includes buying from manufacturers that use sustainable manufacturing practices and using products made from recycled material. The company may also shift to a hybrid working model and allow its staff to work both from home and from the office.
Developing sustainability involves supporting or maintaining a process continuously over time.
Fortunately, the efforts are worth it since a work culture that promotes wellness and sustainability eases decision-making and initiatives in the business. Choosing the right strategies is a crucial first step toward fostering sustainability in a workplace, but a company must not stop there. Companies should also educate staff on what to do and how to do it to increase their chances of following through. Here are six ways to create sustainability in a workspace.
Practices to Promote a Sustainable Workspace
Organizations should update their standard operating procedures (SOP) to include sustainable practices and to schedule employee training on the strategy. Ensure employees understand the underlying principles and importance of sustainability. These types of learning sessions allow you to agree on how you can all work together to achieve sustainability and ease the implementation.
Organizations can educate employees by holding seminars to ensure the distribution of the same information across the board. Consider holding a series of seminars over several weeks or once a month. Talking to everyone at the same time offers an opportunity to share ideas or ask questions. Share useful information with your employees, including resources to learn more and clear steps that can be taken to achieve sustainability. Another way to increase awareness about sustainability could be to hang up signs around the workplace. These could include tips on reducing waste or even reminders to turn off the lights.
The adaptive reuse concept is quickly gaining traction, especially in the building and design industry, due to increasing demand for sustainability and efficient utilization of resources. This process changes an ineffective or unused item into a new one that can be used for a different purpose. In built environments, it involves repurposing buildings for new functions besides those originally meant to meet present-day demands.
The concept is becoming increasingly popular, with experts estimating that 90% of real estate development in the coming decade will involve adaptive reuse. New construction causes adverse environmental effects that can take decades to overcome, and demolishing old structures to build new ones creates a lot of waste. Adaptive reuse helps mitigate these effects and promote sustainability.
Flexible design technologies like adaptive architecture are key to creating a more sustainable workspace. Adaptive architecture refers to a framework that changes its behavior, resources, or structure according to need. The multi-disciplinary approach focuses on buildings fully driven and powered by internal data and those built to adapt to their environments.
Raised flooring is a key example of adaptive design products. The system is an elevated floor laid above a subfloor to leave a void or open space in between. This creates space for the pipework and house cabling required for distributing services around the premises. These services can also include water supply, drainage, environmental controls, security cabling, fire detection and suppression, network cabling, etc.
Access floors are a refurbishment solution in buildings where such infrastructure is needed, but where traditional methods of construction could cause damage to historically crucial interior decoration and artifacts. The Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® system from FreeAxez is an example of an adaptive design product designed to quickly reconfigure the business’s changing needs and keep costs down.
Organizations can consider prefabricated construction as part of their strategy for creating a sustainable workspace. Prefabricated elements are manufactured in a controlled factory, simplifying recycling and waste reduction. Integrating them into a design involves upfront planning, which lowers the probability of rework and, in turn, reduces the amount of waste generated. Preplanning utilizes material lengths optimally, thus reducing waste from material cuts.
A great example of prefabricated construction is demountable partitioning. Companies can use demountable walls in their offices where large open floor plans need more organization. These partitions support ventilation, daylight, and flexibility while reducing waste from drywalls that greatly contribute to landfills.
Businesses should go for an option that allows them to implement changes easily, and a demountable partition is a great way to create a more sustainable workspace. It offers office space flexibility and allows reorganization as staff levels change. For instance, if an employee gets promoted and needs an office to hold client meetings, demountable partitions can help restructure the space without interfering with insulation, electrical or drywall construction, and demolishing. The partitions can be maneuvered and reinstalled quickly without shutting down the entire office space for days due to renovation.
Construction sustainability counts from the design phase to completion, and even in the final phase of continual operation and maintenance. All the steps in this process come with challenges that can complicate the cost-environment balance. Organizations can consider choosing innovative building materials to improve the sustainability of their environment. This could be by creating new materials or improving existing ones, all while reducing dependence on fossil fuel-based materials.
For instance, bamboo is currently taking the architectural sector by storm thanks to its excellent properties, which include fast growth, high tensile strength, and sustainability properties. The material is dominant in South America and Asia, where it is available abundantly due to the favorable growing climate. During growth, bamboo releases more oxygen than other plants, thus contributing to a positive ecological impact. Bamboo’s lightweight and elastic characteristics also make it ideal for intricate and sculptural work.
Manufacturing new materials consumes energy and has an impact on the climate. This process also usually includes the dumping of old materials, thus increasing waste. Organizations can have a role in reducing their own carbon footprints and increasing energy efficiency by repurposing existing materials.
Sustainability is becoming a top priority across all industries. Businesses increasingly recognize the need for more cost-effective, efficient, and safer workplaces. Commitment to sustainable practices can play a role in strengthening a brand by attracting more customers and increasing loyalty. While there are various ways to create a more sustainable workspace, putting the right systems in place is the most efficient strategy a business can take to boost their sustainability efforts.
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