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The eco-friendly office: from biophillic to passivhaus

‘Sustainability’ is more than a buzzword for business. A company’s green credentials are a huge draw for the rapidly growing market of ethical consumerism. Taking advantage of this trend, entrepreneurs the world over are ‘going green’. This year, with biophillic design trending, architects, fit out specialists, and interior designers are seeking new ways to bring the outside in.

The Garden Office

Dappled sunlight, fresh air, the rustle of nearby leaves - just the thought of nature is enough to put you at ease. Now, researchers are saying that the beneficial effects that nature has on our wellbeing can also boost productivity and employee performance.

According to The Royal Chelsea Flower Show, a simple move, such as placing plants in your office, can “lift staff’s well-being by up to 47%”. But the benefits needn’t stop there. Innovative office architects and businesses are finding new ways to integrate drainage systems, living walls and natural light into the build, letting them put flora at the centre of their designs.

Wall facades, entrances and reception rooms are an ideal place to start. While relaxation rooms can provide a restorative atmosphere for employees to recoup. There have been some amazing examples of businesses incorporating existing site ecology such as trees into their design. Big eco-friendly statements like this not only impress visitors and employees, but are likely to be picked up by the press too.

From low-carbon to passivhaus office design

Low-carbon architecture is a must for any business that is serious about sustainability. From solar panelled roofing to wind turbines and on-site biomass generators, there are numerous ways to make a big impression with design features. In 2010, Canolfan Hyddgen (pictured), became the first certified passivhaus office in the UK. Now, businesses all over the UK are developing innovative ways to become carbon neutral and gain the ultimate ‘passivhaus’ badge of honour.

According to PassivScience, these buildings achieve overall energy usage reductions of 60 –80% (and space heating and cooling demand reductions of 90%). This can be achieved through a combination of key design elements, such as:

  1. Superinsulation: buildings which are designed to be airtight, keeping heat transfer to an absolute minimum.
  2. Ventilation: air-transfer is carefully balanced to provide 100% fresh air with optimum heat exchange.
  3. Efficiency: designing mechanical systems that decrease energy demands and maximise heat gains.
  4. Orientation: using landscape features and building orientation to optimise natural light and heat.

Although such projects can be hugely expensive, businesses should look at the overall cost of design. Passivhaus buildings cut utility costs to negligible amounts, providing vast savings on an ongoing basis.

Building to green standards

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the definition of a green building is a project that allows you to “preserve most of the natural environment around the project site, while still being able to produce a building that is going to serve a purpose.” In addition to this, the construction promotes a healthy environment for all involved.

Businesses need to think about the full lifecycle of the build, taking into consideration resources used, effects on the local habitat and the ongoing energy use. 

Rather than using carbon-intensive building materials such as concrete, bricks and mortar, architects should opt for sustainable alternatives such as renewable timber, non-toxic paint and limecrete. Cellulose insulation is a great material for trapping heat (and it’s environmentally friendly in production, too). 

Businesses should also consider their use of resources beyond the build. Onsite facilities such as biomass generators, which burn by-products for heat, and water collection and treatment facilities, can save both utility costs and the environment. While the simple installation of low energy light bulbs (100 times longer-lasting than regular bulbs) can have a massive impact also.

From passivhaus to a few light bulbs, any step towards environmentally friendly office design is a start. For a free consultation on your next design and build or fit-out project, why not contact UK Workspace on 0844 463 0901.


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