Have you thought about the environmental impact of the place where you work? Not what the business itself does, but the bricks and mortar that house your company, and the environment surrounding it? Businesses tend to think about how they can do more to facilitate recycling in the office, reduce waste and consumption, encourage car-pooling and so on. When it comes to your premises, you may not have given so much thought to make your building greener, but there are good reasons to find out what you can do to make your building less harmful to the environment.
Barriers to being green
There are circumstances in which you might not have control over your premises, for example, if you are renting or leasing. The landlord will be responsible for the building’s maintenance, and you wouldn’t be able to act on your initiative to make any changes. If you feel you are restricted by not owning the premises, don’t assume there is nothing you can do. Initiate a discussion with the landlord and show them what the benefits would be to
more ecologically sound. You might be surprised to find they are willing to look at the options, especially if they will gain by implementing changes. Finance is another obvious barrier. Why would you allocate part of your budget to upgrading the building for anything but essential maintenance? You might not appreciate that there are benefits to your business as well as the environment from introducing ecologically sound elements to your built environment.
What are the benefits of going green?
- More efficient energy and water systems will save on resources, thus cutting your overheads
- Creating less waste will reduce staff hours spent dealing with refuse and recycling and may cut your waste disposal costs
- The employee working environment will be more conducive to increased productivity and well-being, and happy, productive staff are key to your business making healthy profits
- Pollution will be reduced, making for a healthier workspace and less ill-health amongst employees, resulting in fewer sick days
- You can use your green credentials as part of your marketing campaigns, to demonstrate you are committed to the environment and the health and well-being of the populace, rather than just being after every buck you can make
There may be additional benefits depending on your business and location, but all of these are sound reasons to up your ecological game for your own advantage, quite aside from the personal responsibility of caring for the environment.
Adapting existing buildings
If you own the premises or are working with your landlord, what sort of adaptations could you make to your building? Energy sources are a relatively simple green technology to retrofit, for example, solar panels can easily sit on your roof, or an air source heat pump installed to provide energy in a more eco-friendly manner. Insulation can be more problematic, but you can make sure the roof space is fully lined with modern insulating materials, and if you have cavity walls it’s possible to inject insulation into the gaps. You do need to have the building professionally assessed to make sure this is an appropriate course of action, as not all buildings are suitable. You can also apply insulating materials to the outside walls if they are solid or not suitable for injection methods.
If you get the chance to construct your work premises from scratch, this is an ideal opportunity to build an environmentally friendly structure, and this will be far cheaper than trying to renovate an existing building. When you are at the planning stage, have a look at all the options available to you for making the building more eco-friendly and assess which will be the most effective and efficient within the project’s budget. You want to look at materials that provide the same or even better functionality than traditional materials, e.g., using environmentally sound composites or reclaimed timber. Work with an architect who can incorporate eco-friendly building techniques, and consult with builders and roofing companies who are experienced in the construction of green office space.
Government help and incentive schemes
There is a range of resources available to encourage the ecologically aware approach to renovating and building green offices. These can range from grants, subsidies, tax relief, and business loans to free planning, architectural and construction advice. You need to check your eligibility for these incentives, which may vary from state to state. There are also financial benefits in achieving a green certification for your building. You can find out about green building standards and certification systems and a good starting point for finding out about building and renovating in an ecologically sound way is the United States Green Building Council.
What if you can’t go that far?
If you don’t have sufficient budget or lack permission to undertake major renovation work, there are still some actions you can take to improve your building’s green credentials. Firstly, check all your power, heating, water and air-conditioning systems for their efficiency and to make sure they are working correctly. For example, you could reset your air-conditioning points to a wider control band, making adjustment easier and allowing variable rates in different areas. You could install movement or timer-controlled lighting systems to prevent wasted electricity from lights being left on unnecessarily, and of course, check your bulbs are all modern and energy efficient. If you can install one, a building management system can be very effective in reducing waste and ensuring your systems run efficiently.
When you take your waste paper out to the recycling, just pause for a moment and consider whether you are doing everything you can to reduce the negative effects your business premises might be making to the environment. It may seem like it’s lower down your list of priorities than marketing or manufacturing, but all the aspects of your business are interlinked and affected by each other. Find out how you could benefit and what help is available to assist you with making changes and see if can create a greener business.
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