Going Green: How Sustainable Office Design Can Lead to Healthier Workplaces
21 Apr 2021
April 22 marks the annual commemoration of Earth Day. Originating from the US during the 1970s, it has grown into a global movement where communities gather to raise awareness about climate change as well as advocating causes such as environmental protection and conservation. Corporations have a pivotal role to play in society – through the creation of healthy working environments for their employees but also through positive contributions to the physical environment. In line with this theme, we want to cast a spotlight on how sustainability can be incorporated into office interior design, with the primary objective of creating healthy and productive workplaces.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Sustainable Office Design
The health pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of healthier standards and practices at the workplace. In a recent survey in the UK, when asked about the non-economic impacts of Covid-19 on their workplaces, 53% of businesses interviewed said they now have a greater focus on sustainability. Here in Singapore, as the government gradually lifts workplace restrictions and more people return to the office, concerns about health and physical safety have taken centre stage.
How Do I Know Whether My Office Design Is Sustainable?
In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) collaborated with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) in 2018 to develop the BCA-HPB Green Mark for Healthier Workplaces scheme. This scheme aims to establish a structured approach to designing environmentally sustainable, resource-efficient and healthy offices – accounting for various areas such as energy and resource efficiency, indoor environment quality levels as well as employee health and well-being. These criteria will be used as scoring benchmarks during the assessment of an office interior space. A point total will be given that would correspond to a Green Mark Rating ranging from a Green Mark Certified office to a Green Mark Platinum office. This certification can enhance the value proposition of the awarded organisation as an employer that prioritises environmental sustainability as well as employee health and well-being.
How can organisations hence transform their workplaces to place workplace safety & health at the forefront of office design and daily operations? Here are some examples:
Biophilic design aims to bridge the gap between the natural world and the built environment. By bringing the exterior into the interior, it adds depth to the whole office, by creating a soothing and inviting atmosphere.
“People are more productive when the environment they are in is more relaxing and makes them feel at ease. They are also more creative and can more easily collaborate with one another. With that mindset, it is proven to be a better working environment when employees feel more comfortable, as compared to working in a sterile-looking office.”– Hisham Musiran, Lead Designer at ID21
In the office space of this international legal practice, we developed an “outside-in” concept to create an inspiring and supportive workplace that exudes the company’s ethos. Incorporating biophilic elements into the office space can bring about a host of benefits – research has shown that workers in offices with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, report a 15 percent higher level of well-being compared to those who are not.
Check out our Pinterest board which features various green design elements to serve as inspiration in your next office redesign.
The office space of this leading travel technology company has been redesigned with an open desking concept in mind. We placed workstations along the window perimeter, while shared amenities such as meeting rooms have been positioned in the middle of the space. The new design allows sunlight to stream in, making use of a more natural light source while reducing the office’s dependency on artificial lighting, bringing about positive effects on energy usage. Research has shown that working in a room with natural light helps boost productivity and mental health, and employees who are exposed to natural light in offices sleep better because the light improves circadian rhythms (which regulates our internal body clocks).
Studies have revealed the impact of sound distraction on employee well-being, significantly affecting productivity and stress levels. Therefore, organisations can make use of acoustic absorbing solutions to reduce noise levels in the office. Typically made from compressed mineral wool or foam, acoustic panels absorb sound waves and hence reduce general noise, clarify speech and minimise reverberation in walls within enclosed areas. These sound-absorbing panels come in all shapes and forms. At the office of this global insurance company, we made use of acoustic panels to serve their practical purpose as well as to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the space.
Material efficiency refers to selecting materials that are sustainably sourced, made from a high percentage of recycled content or emit lower VOC levels. Through the adoption of such practices, organisations can help to drastically reduce the energy needed to produce new materials as well as improve indoor environment quality levels in the office. Sustainability was prioritised in the design for the office space of this leader in technologically advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace and defence industry. Other than incorporating greenery indoors with a moss wall and planters along the walkways, we ensured material efficiency in the office space through the use of eco-friendly furniture and textures and low-VOC finishes.
Beyond the Physical Environment: Social Sustainability
Sustainable office design extends beyond the physical environment. Organisations have to also consider how people interact with and benefit from being in the office environment. The health pandemic has also exacerbated concerns about how the workplace can successfully enhance employees’ psychological and social well-being. Organisations and space designers now both face the challenge of building a workplace environment that nurtures and facilitates human connection. Design today must understand what drives behaviour and account for the human experience and efficiency optimisation, to be able to create happier, healthier and more productive workplaces.
Interested in creating a greener and more sustainable office space? ID21 is an experienced and reputable office renovation contractor who can help you navigate the fast-changing workplace landscape. Contact us today to find out how!