Good design today necessarily means going green. At a time when the supply of commercial property outstrips demand, we think it more relevant to make existing workplaces greener, rather than constructing new “green” buildings. So here’s a checklist to help your office get into greener, better shape.
Check your supplier’s green credentials
The production, transportation, use and disposal of materials has tremendous environmental and health implications. Using local materials with maximum recycled content is one way to minimize pollution and environmental damage from their transport. Paints and finishes should be used with care as seemingly harmless materials such as thinners, solvents, wood preservatives, air fresheners and adhesives can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
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Manufacturers are increasingly aware of green certification standards. Modular carpet tile manufacturer Interface, whose products are available in India, is a global sustainability pioneer, driven by what it calls “Mission Zero: our promise to completely eliminate the negative impact our company may have on the environment by 2020”. Some office furniture manufacturers also offer forest council-certified wood products that are guaranteed to come from a well-managed forest.
Plant living greenery
To improve indoor air quality, use appropriate indoor plants, not cut flowers. For landscaping, plants that are drought-resistant and native to the office’s location will benefit the environment.
Clean up the housekeeping
Using less toxic cleaning and maintenance products has long-term benefits on the environment and the health of a company’s employees. Some commentators feel the removal of anti-bacterial soaps from washrooms may be a good idea as these ingredients are unnecessary and may cause more harm than good, helping to create resistant strains of bacteria.
Energy efficiency is a critical factor in controlling costs and creating a more sustainable workplace. Using day lighting as an integral part of a lighting design strategy for offices reduces the power load from artificial lighting and interior cooling costs. Numerous studies suggest that employee morale is also greatly enhanced by natural light.
Replace older HVAC systems
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in offices typically use a large chunk of energy. Using Energy Star-rated products guarantees basic environment-safe standards and can cut costs up to 20%. Improving HVAC systems also promotes a healthier environment for employees. Improved filtration technology decreases the amount of particulates and bio-contaminants such as fungus, mould and viruses. Efficient HVAC systems are also more effective in filtering out nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides and other air pollutants.
Install renewable energy sources
It is possible to generate power for certain uses using photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar panels. Depending on the geographical location, wind power can add substantially to the power bank, reducing purchase and conventional generation costs.
Conduct a waste audit
A waste audit is an analysis of your building’s waste stream. It can identify the types of recyclable materials and waste your office generates and how much of each type is recovered for recycling or discarded, including paper, cardboard, metals, plastics and glass. Using the data collected, an organization can identify ways to reduce waste and enhance its recycling efforts and determine the potential for cost savings.
Get a water audit too
Water conservation strategies such as water meters, low-flow fixtures and more efficient landscaping techniques can be extremely effective. Water audits analyse a facility’s water use and identify ways to make it more efficient by reviewing domestic, sanitary, landscaping and process water use.
Aparna Piramal Raje is director, BP Ergo. Radhika Desai is a Mumbai-based interior architect.
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