10 ways to make your office fit out more sustainable

10 ways to make your office fit out more sustainable

With the impact of climate change becoming ever clearer, more and more people are looking for ways to introduce sustainable habits into their lives. These eco-friendly habits often revolve around home life and personal behaviour, but sustainability is increasingly creating a presence in our working lives too.

It’s no surprise that businesses are making more of an effort to adopt sustainable practices. In addition to the environmental benefits of creating sustainable offices, focusing on workplace sustainability can also help business owners attract and retain top talent. According to a survey by IBM, 67% of employees were more likely to apply for jobs at companies they view as environmentally sustainable, and 68% were more likely to accept jobs from these companies for the same reason. 

Having an eco-friendly office space is one way to prove to potential and current employees that your business is serious about sustainability, but how can you achieve this? Implementing sustainable office initiatives like cycling to work or going paperless is one way to prove your commitment to the environment, but this doesn’t address the sustainability and energy efficiency of the space itself. To go one step further, you need to incorporate sustainability into your initial office fit out and design – here’s how you can do this.

What is an office fit out?

We’ve all heard of office refurbishment and office design, but how do these terms differ from an office fit out? While office refurbishment generally refers to the renovation of an office space that’s already being used, an office fit out refers to the process of turning a bare commercial space into a functional workspace, such as by installing flooring, lighting, IT equipment and other necessary office items. Therefore, you might need an office renovation when refreshing or rebranding your current office, but you might need a full office fit out when moving to a new location.

Depending on how much needs to be done to bring the space up to scratch, you’ll either need a Category A, Category B, Category A+ or Shell and Core fit out, which you can learn more about in our guide to the difference between office fit out and office refurbishment. If you’re starting with just the shell of a commercial space, this will give you plenty of opportunities to incorporate sustainability into your office design. Here are 10 ways you can incorporate sustainable office design during your office fit out, focusing on both structural elements and finishing touches.

1. Use eco-friendly materials

With a complete office fit out, you have total control over everything from the furniture to the materials used for the floors and internal walls. This gives you the opportunity to pick sustainable materials for every inch of the space, including wood, stone, linen and other natural elements. These natural materials have a much lower impact on the environment than synthetic ones like plastic, as the latter materials produce harmful emissions during their production and eventually create waste in landfills. 

Not only can you include these natural elements in your office decorations (which is an essential part of biophilic office design), but you can also use them throughout the structural elements of your office in a full fit out, such as the walls and flooring. For example, natural wood is one of the best flooring materials for your office thanks to its elegant appearance and long-lasting, sturdy nature. Picking long-lasting materials is a key part of creating a sustainable office, as this will ensure you aren’t constantly replacing things or buying new furniture (which creates waste). Another way to make sure you aren’t producing too much waste is to select materials that are recycled or recyclable, so pay attention to this while shopping for your office fit out.

2. Use local suppliers

As well as thinking about what you’re buying for your office, you need to think about where you’re buying from. While you may think you’re being eco-friendly when buying recycled furniture from overseas, the environmental impact of shipping these goods can cancel out the sustainability of their production process. 

Instead, it’s best to source your supplies from local companies to minimise the cost, time and resources involved in transporting. Overall, this will have multiple benefits for your business: improving your sustainability, reducing your shipping costs, and helping you support the local economy.

3. Let in natural light

If you’re performing a full fit out from an empty shell to a habitable office space, you have the opportunity to make the most of natural lighting and reduce your reliance on artificial lighting sources. By installing floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights and other strategically placed window panes, you can maximise the amount of natural light that enters your office throughout the day, especially if you have windows facing multiple directions. 

Although it’s not really possible to forgo artificial lighting altogether, you could potentially reduce the number of hours you need to have lighting on by placing desks around these large windows. However, make sure you don’t end up blocking these windows with furniture, as this will defeat your aim of letting more natural light into the room. 

4. Install LED lighting

As mentioned above, you’ll still need to install artificial lighting to ensure that your employees have enough light to perform their work throughout the day. However, you can still make sustainable choices here by installing energy-efficient LED lighting. LED bulbs use much less energy and last a lot longer than traditional light bulbs, which makes them a much more eco-friendly option. With this combination of natural and LED lighting, you can create a better lighting solution for your office that brightens and energises the space without having a severe impact on the environment. 

5. Install solar panels

Thanks to your lighting, HVAC systems and all of your IT equipment, your office energy consumption will be high, which can undermine your sustainability mission. However, if you have the opportunity to install solar panels, this can offset this negative impact by providing clean energy for you to use. Although this initial installation will be expensive, you can save money over time in addition to reducing your carbon footprint.

6. Install sensor taps

Looking for more energy-saving modifications? Why not reduce your water usage (and save money on your water bills) by installing sensor taps? These sensor taps automatically turn themselves off after a short period of time, eliminating the risk of an employee accidentally leaving a tap on and wasting water. Taps with flow regulators can also reduce your water usage by better controlling the amount of water that flows through.  

7. Add insulation

Save money on your heating bills by making sure your office has adequate cavity insulation during the office fit out process. By keeping heat inside the building more effectively, your heating systems won’t have to work as hard to keep the office at a comfortable temperature, helping you use less energy overall. Plus, insulation can also keep your office building cooler during the summer if you use air conditioning, as you won’t lose as much cool air through the walls and ceiling. 

8. Install energy-efficient HVAC systems

In addition to installing insulation, you can also upgrade your HVAC systems during your sustainable office fit out to use energy more efficiently. Installing energy-efficient HVAC systems or upgrading existing heating and cooling systems is a great idea if you’re currently using a lot of energy but aren’t sure why. 

9. Downsize

An office fit out is typically needed during office relocation, so you’ve probably already assessed your current office space and decided it’s not quite fit for purpose. Often, businesses move offices due to expansion, but have you considered the possibility of downsizing instead?

Through clever office planning and design, you can learn how to make the most of a small office space, such as by arranging the furniture, making use of natural lighting and only keeping what you need. Alternatively, you could use this opportunity to improve your remote working policies, which may mean that not all employees are needed in the office every day. Downsizing your office can massively reduce your carbon footprint, and by pairing this with more remote work, you can further reduce emissions by not requiring everyone to commute to the office all the time.

10. Choose a sustainable office fit out company

Undertaking an office fit out on your own can be an extremely daunting task, especially if you’re only working with the bare ‘shell’ of a commercial space. This is why many businesses choose to hire an office fit out company to help them plan out the process and design an office space that suits their needs.

If sustainability is your priority, it’s best to work with a sustainable office fit out company that really understands how to make your office both eco-friendly and functional. Research each company you come across to see if they specialise in sustainable office design, and make sure to ask them plenty of questions about how they would incorporate sustainability into your office fit out.

Here at Diamond Interiors, we specialise in office fit out and design for all types of businesses. Get in touch today to learn more about our sustainable office design and fit out services, or check out our blog for further advice on planning your future office refurbishment or relocation.