Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

The Office Agenda brings together our extensive insight into what makes an office that people – from employees to the board – prefer.

Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

Sustainability

Going green

Employers and employees alike are increasingly demanding that the buildings they work in meet high standards of sustainability – and they will soon have the technology to measure it for themselves

Over the past few years, millions of people have adopted sustainable living practices, from recycling their rubbish to cycling to work instead of driving. Some go further, avoiding goods or services because of unethical practices such as forced labour.

According to our research, workers think these issues are becoming more important in the office as well. In our survey, 72% of UK workers said that working in an eco-friendly/sustainable building is important to them, with the figure rising to 77% in London. Yet only 58% say they are satisfied with the green credentials of their current location.

A healthy environment

So what makes a green building? According to Sarah Cary, Head of Sustainable Places at British Land, sustainable practices should encompass everything from vetting the supply chain to the materials used in construction, from air filtration to water consumption.

“There is an international standard, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM), that has a range of ratings governing commercial buildings, and we are consistently rated as ‘excellent’,” says Cary.

That means going much further than the legal minimums required in the UK. “The most common ‘green’ issues that enter peoples’ minds are things connected to climate change, such as energy efficiency, water use and waste materials,” says Cary. “These are all factors we design into our buildings from the outset, from air conditioning systems to air quality control. It’s all about providing a great indoor environment for human health, and that includes using products in the building process that have very low toxicity, from paints to cleaning materials and solvents.

“We are also very big on rainwater recycling,” she continues. “We collect the water in roof towers and use it in toilets and in our air-conditioning systems to make efficient use of water.”

She adds that British Land also operates a supply-chain charter that ensures no forced labour is involved, among many other things. “We examine all the risk areas, such as timber, where we do a lot of work making sure it comes from sustainable sources.”

Marketing green credentials

There is growing evidence that companies taking space in offices want to ensure that they are occupying a green building so that they can market these credentials to staff, potential employees and even clients.

“We get a lot of requests for our BREEAM certification nowadays,” says Cary. “Increasingly, for example, companies want control over the cleaning products used by the maintenance staff so that they can ensure everything is healthy. It’s clearly becoming a bigger issue for employers and employees alike.”

She adds that technology will play a huge role in educating employees about green buildings in the next few years. “With the next generation of smartphones and wearable fitness devices, you’ll be able to monitor whether you’ve had enough sunlight, and also the quality of the air around you. It’s going to alert a lot of workers to the quality of their environment,” she says.

It is a point echoed by Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, who is convinced that technology that enables employees to measure air quality will force the green building issue up the agenda: “There is going to be more dialogue, because staff will be more vocal when they can see what their environment is doing to their health.

“In China, for example, a number of apps enable workers to check the CO2 levels in their buildings. In some cases, workers refuse to come in or insist on leaving the office because the CO2 levels are way too high.”

She adds that this is the tip of the iceberg. “We will see many more, similar issues being raised as a result of clever technology that forces companies to take green buildings more seriously – employees will simply demand it.”

Tagged in: FACILITIES, SUSTAINABILITY, WELLBEING

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