How to design for a greener office on a budget

By 28th March 2018 July 20th, 2020 Office design trends
How to design for a greener office on a budget

As a business in SA, going green is becoming more and more important, but how can you do it without breaking the bank? Read on to find out…

In our growing economy “going green” is not just a trendy statement to appease investors – it’s a movement which can also help businesses cut costs and maybe even boost revenue.

Historically, when it comes to being environmentally friendly, there are “Three Rs” that everyone follows: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. But going green and building an office from scratch around the Three Rs can be expensive. Luckily, there are ways to reduces the amount of energy your office uses, generate less waste, and provide a healthy environment for the people working there without wreaking havoc on your budget.

It’s about using your space cleverly and thinking about the environmental impact your choices will have when doing an office redesign.

Here are some helpful tips on things you can do to make your office greener on a budget.

1. Change your light bulbs

Unlike a home, lighting an office is an expensive endeavour and while some may not worry about the effects of throwing out old bulbs when you use four a year, an office requires far more bulbs to light their space.

One of the easiest ways to take a step into the green office space is by changing to LEDs bulbs. Not only are these the most efficient type of bulb on the market they also use 75% less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs while delivering the same light output.

2. Take advantage of natural light

Saving energy in South Africa is vital, and as a business it’s important to take advantage of the space you have to minimise your energy output. We all know that using natural light in an office is a timeless design trick used by designers and architects everywhere, but how do you maximise on this technique if you’re not going to rebuild your space?

Using what natural light you have in your current office is possible. While adding more windows to a space is always first prize, you can also use other techniques to assist in getting more natural light in a space. For instance, using strategically placed mirrors can not only help distribute natural light in a space, but they can also help your space look bigger. You can also consult a Space Planner to help you move people around in your office to get them as close as possible to the windows to reduce need for lighting.

Tip: Don’t waste your windows! Give window space to people and the internal, darker areas to storerooms, server rooms, print stations, and even glass meeting rooms.

3. Reduce the aircon

We all know that aircon emits greenhouse gases and that these gases add to the pollution in our air, but the aircon is a staple in the office space. In fact, many a colleague war has been fought over the temperature and use of the aircon in offices. Even though a properly set and maintained aircon releases less gas than one that is set lower than 22 degrees, it’s still a contributor to pollution.

If you’re looking to go green without breaking the bank, try reducing the use of aircon in the office. For instance, you could turn it off and leave windows open on mild days; unfortunately, many offices leave their aircon on even if it’s a cooler day. Not only is this unfriendly to the environment, but you’re also putting your staff in a cold space that could make them sick.

The common mistakes businesses make:

Many companies make small mistakes when designing their new office space that they don’t realise impacts the use of their aircon.

Things like:

  1. Creating an all glass building. In South Africa you need to be very smart about the material you use for a full glass building. Because of the heat generated by the glass when it is in constant sunlight, you actually end up needing to use more aircon.
  2. Removing ceiling panels to get that Industrial look (concrete, steel, and exposed joints) we all love is actually bad for the aircon. The aircon needs to circulate in the room to be effective, but removing these ceiling panels opens the room up and creates more space which it wasn’t designed to work in, this means you need to decrease the temp of the the aircon in order for it to be felt in the whole office space.

4. Use the right products

If you’re ready to redesign your office, you can start going green simply by using the right kind of products: from refill pens to wooden furniture. We recommend you use more sustainable products. We know what you’re thinking: “Sustainable products are expensive”. Yes, they may be the case, but one of the key elements of going green is to ensure your office is producing less waste, and throwing out unsustainable products creates more waste. Not to mention, it will actually cost you more in the long run.  

We recommend you buy furniture and other products that use materials that are durable and that won’t suffer from overnight disintegration. Look at using things like natural flooring as well, this is more durable and gives the office a more natural feel that is timeless.  

5. Embrace the cloud and recycle

Research shows that the average office worker uses 10 000 sheets of copy paper each year in the US alone. South Africa is probably using the same if not more every year, and while people recycle more in the US, many South Africans don’t recycle. Take a look at your office bin. Chances are, even if you have a recycle box in the office, you’ll probably find more paper in the normal bin.

An alternative to this is to do what a lot of companies have started thinking about – going paperless. The dynamic uses of cloud-based software like G-Suite allows for a completely paperless working environment. You can do everything from sharing document to commenting and tracking changes.

Going green is important and these quick tips will help you get on the road to creating a greener office space. There are many ways to use space planning and office design to create a green office, speak to an expert commercial office designer to get more insights into how to design for green.


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Derek Stedman

Author Derek Stedman

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