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SUSTAINABLE OFFICE WEIGHING UP THE COST G


reen and all that the colour stands for became old news a while back. It happened sometime between the new build crisis in which many construction projects – particularly in the residential sector – never made it beyond the drawings stage or, even worse,


ground to a holt mid-construction and the time they stopped handing out the Olympics contracts and the contractors who missed the boat had to come to terms with the fact that, yes indeed, the ship had well and truly sailed. We all got a bit more enthusiastic after the Olympics though.


Team GB worked its magic and, in the last couple of years, there has been a degree of optimism which has infiltrated most industries, with construction setting its sights firmly forward as more projects are mooted going into 2015. The future is indeed looking brighter but is it necessarily looking green?


Cost has always rated highly on a client’s agenda but now it topples most. Those businesses who have survived the last few years are more careful in their spending. If recent times have left any lasting legacy, it is one of caution. People are still looking to make short and medium-term savings and being green, for various reasons, is usually considered the more costly option - and, to varying degrees, it often is.


Because there is a degree of flexibility when it comes to defining a green building and there is no set of guidelines that has been formalised by UK regulation, cost can still over rule sustainable options. First off, is to address this issue. The ‘materials’ category, for instance, doesn’t have to be the most expensive remit to meet. There are different ways to interpret success for this particular green concern. You may not be able to afford to get materials that have


OF A GREEN AGENDA Michael Page, joint managing director of leading workplace consultant, Saracen Interiors, considers whether green credentials still earn their spot on the agenda for the office environment after over half a decade of belt tightening and stringent budget cuts or is it time to let go?


been obtained from renewable sources and that have been harvested in a sustainable way but, by sourcing some of the materials locally and reducing the energy impact made via transportation, you can still secure some green brownie points.


As well as looking outside of the box, designers and fit out specialists must get their clients looking further ahead from the outset. Given that more eco-friendly solutions and initiatives are designed with the long-term picture in mind, we now need clients to look forward with real vision in order to get them into that green mind set once again. To properly paint the picture, the consulting contractor must outline the eco-friendly alternatives that are relevant to a project and draw attention to the long-term gains. It has to be sold to the client much as it was say fifteen years ago when green was less of an issue. The CSR factor generally influences most parties once budget issues have been talked through and overcome. If the company is public facing – selling products or services to the public and maintaining and building a brand with a sense of social responsibility – being green becomes more of an issue. What the client company wants is more likely to be driven by a desire to tick all the right boxes and to please its audience, customers and members of the public etc. When it comes to commercial property, it is always worth it for the designer or the fit out consultant to appeal to the tenant’s or owner’s role as an employer. The upfront investment in sustainability will have a lasting effect on the users of any building and this is never more keenly demonstrated than in the commercial sector. Here, most employees still spend the majority of their working time in an office and the way that that office functions – its facilities, lighting, ventilation etc – has to have an effect on the health and well-being of the staff.


This runs through to office design and interiors too. Better for the individual to work in sight of a window and reap the benefit of natural light with a few well-chosen plants etc. We all know that happy staff are more productive but think about the sick days saved and the fact that we are all more tuned in if we aren’t feeling lethargic or too hot or too cold.


The economy has had an effect on energy efficiency and sustainability and, truth is, in trying times, key messages tend to go out of the window but there is now room for some balance. There doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.


By working with clients to ensure that they meet their green credentials in the most cost-effective manner, we can help to introduce good corporate environmental policies and build and refurbish green buildings that make a difference for the end users years down the line.


PUBLIC SECTOR ESTATES MANAGEMENT • JANUARY 2015 23


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