Simple ways of designing/operating a GREEN Workplace

Workplaces use large amounts of electricity, paper, water, plastic and other resources and organizations spend an incredible amount of money on them. Healthy and efficient workplaces save money for an organisation, benefit the environment by reducing pollution and the demand for resources. Such workplaces also make employees feel healthier, which in turn has a positive impact on employee productivity.

The building industry specialists at have compiled a few tips to consider on some of the resources which can ensure a green workspace. These would be :

Lighting: Incandescent lights and halogen down lights can be avoided. LED light fittings come in smart designs meant for the modern workplaces and such lights can effect substantial savings in the monthly power bill. In addition, locating motion sensors in the right spots will also save loads of electricity and ensure lights are on and off at the right time. There are hundreds of energy efficient lighting products available easily. One can be smart with lighting by:

  1. Making sure appropriate luminance levels (in lux) are maintained
  2. Using zoned lighting, with separate controls
  3. Propagating use of task lighting
  4. Choosing light fittings with built-in daylight sensors, to make the most of natural light
  5. Installing infrared motion detectors for automatic lighting control
  6. Installing timers to shut off lighting on weekends and at night

Waste: There are really two areas to consider here.

During construction : The first is the minimization, removal and recycling of waste from the construction work involved in the project. This is the responsibility of the contractor and it is worth checking their track record and their supply chain when dealing with waste. A contractor should be advised to track the amount of waste produced, how it is collected and what proportion has been recycled.

During occupation : The second area is dealing with ongoing waste when the facility is occupied. If the organisation makes it easy for people to recycle, they will. Designing attractive labelled containers in the pantry and other places people drink and eat helps. Although radical, it is worthwhile to think about removing rubbish bins at people’s desks. There are organisations which collect office scrap to be recycled.

Heating & Cooling: Improving the all round energy efficiency of the heating and cooling systems probably provide the biggest opportunity for impacting environmental performance of the workplace. Some highlights:

  1. Installing insulation whenever possible – it will help keep the facility cool in summer and warm in winter
  2. Clever air-conditioning systems use heat exchangers to capture regulate incoming air. There are many good products that can pay for themselves in less than 3 years. Getting specialist advice can ensure significant savings on energy bills. The architect and the HVAC consultant can provide specific tailored advice on the exact situation. There is also money to be earned from carbon credits by way of reducing one’s carbon footprint and there are quite a few CDM (‘Clean Development Mechanism’) consultants in India now, who can assist with this.
  3. Boilers can waste lots of energy and money – spend some time choosing the right boiler for your building needs

Water: Almost every part of India has a problem of not getting enough water for daily use. In such a scenario, prudent use of this scare resource is a responsibility at every level. One must install water efficient taps, showers, toilets and kitchen appliances. Besides this, it is important to consider the following:

  1. Wasting less water
  2. Using rainwater or grey water systems
  3. Choosing low water flow fittings
  4. Using waterless urinals
  5. Using low flush toilets
  6. Fitting a reliable leak detection system
  7. Including proximity detection shut-off to the water supply for all WCs

Timber: Sustainable timber, which is available for both bulk timber uses (like particle board) and for high end uses such as veneers. Careful specification at the start of the project will ensure there are no adverse cost or programme implications for a project.

Flooring: There are several options to consider with flooring. Is the flooring recyclable? Carpets can often be recycled and reused. A lot can be done do to make flooring more sustainable. One can choose carpets that have high levels of recycled content (these are now commonly available), ceramic tiles that clip together (no nasty solvent use) or naturally sourced materials like sustainable timber or bamboo.

Furniture: One must not forget about the furniture. Depending on the design, an Architect/Designer can specify sustainable timber and natural fabrics like wool or those with a high recycled content. One should consider buying furniture from manufacturers that have a good track record of protecting the environment and have minimized the amount of packaging their products need.