Building Green: The Office Space Concept of the Future
How will the commercial property industry adapt to sustainable issues and climate change fears in years to come – and how will this affect the office space market as we know it?
Today we are learning about ever increasing numbers of property developments that are harnessing sustainable measures – ranging from the use of recycled materials and local resources in the building process, to green roofs and solar panelling in the finished product.
The industry is adapting to increasing pressure by government targets and public demand to become ‘green’, and the construction sector is incorporating increasingly sustainable tactics in the use of new developments.
But Britain has a target to cut its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and the country faces a formidable task to reach this goal and also become the “greenest government ever” under the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by the property industry is to make older buildings more energy efficient.
Old buildings play a significant part in the culture and history of the UK, and appear in just about every village, town, city and landscape conceivable. They are a treasured icon of the UKΓÇÖs industrial past and still today, many former mills and working properties have been renovated to continue their role in commerce.
But unfortunately, many fail to live up to the green standards that the country needs if it is to move forward and reach the government’s targets.
The Guardian recently announced their achievement in being awarded the Carbon Trust Standard (CTS) in recognition of the company’s 3-year project to reduce its climate change impacts.
One of the most significant elements that led to them successfully reducing their carbon emissions by a total of 12% over the 3-year period was moving out of several older, less efficient offices in Farringdon to a new property in King’s Cross, which led to a 7% reduction in their CO2 output.
They also revamped their heating and cooling systems at one of their secondary offices in London, which saved 385 tonnes of CO2 over the course of one year.
Impressive – but it’s interesting that even a company of The Guardian’s size and stature preferred to move to a new, ‘ready-green’ office building rather than spend money improving their existing one, or negotiating a deal with their landlord to make the offices more sustainable.
In the serviced office sector, business centre providers often lease a portion of a building to rent out as office space for clients, and therefore the responsibility of renovating the property to become more sustainable will fall to the landlord. While this does mean that providers often escape the cost associations of expensive redevelopment work, it also removes that element of control from the office provider.
However, as the green issue becomes increasingly prominent, business centres have the opportunity to use their influence over the standard of the building and many are now pushing for greater efficiency.
Many serviced office providers now offer high levels of sustainability and energy efficiency which, apart from doing its bit for the longevity of the building and creating less of an impact on the environment, also offers cost savings from reduced energy usage which can be passed onto tenants.
The Office Group, a former Business Centre of the Month award winner, takes environmental issues seriously and has invested a significant amount of time and money into getting it right. They have incorporated a range of sustainable features in some of their office properties, including solar panelling, recycled materials, bike storage and showers for cyclists, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and even a wormery.
By their own admission, improving the sustainability of a building is a “steep learning curve”, and they also admit to being restricted by the physical limitations of the buildings – “for instance where we have a pitched timber roof, we canΓÇÖt have a roof garden”. This is an interesting point we alluded to earlier, but unlike the example of The Guardian, The Office Group have chosen to persevere and work with what they have, rather than move elsewhere.
Icon Business Centres are another serviced office company that are keen to reduce their carbon stamp on the planet.
Their office property in Leeds is located in the greenest property in the UK according to BREEAM – and achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating of 87.55%. The property uses recycled materials, a green roof, greywater to flush vacuum toilets, and even wall tiles made from old mobile phones.
While there is still a long way to go before commercial office buildings in the UK are optimised to reach their full ‘green’ potential, there is already plenty of activity and investment taking place in the serviced office sector alone that bodes well for the property industry as a whole.
Over the next few years this type of development will only become more commonplace, and even the most stalwart of property owners will begin to adapt their ways – either by pressure from tenants or a more pressing requirement from government authorities.
It will be interesting to see how the industry adapts, and how differently it will operate as we head towards 2050.