Light Green
Think sustainable; there is no other future

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MAKE WORKPLACES GREEN?

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Workplaces use enormous amounts of electricity, paper, water, plastic and other resources and organizations spend a tremendous 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.

Some of the resources which can ensure a green workspace would be :

Timber: Sustainable timber is now 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. What are you taking out? Is the flooring coming out of use elsewhere in your organisation, does it have a recyclable content? Carpet can often be recycled and reused, perhaps look at charities that have recycled carpets from previous projects. What are you putting in? There are lots one can 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.

Lighting: Incandescent lights and halogen down lights can be well avoided. These days LED light fittings come in smart designs meant for the modern workplaces and such lights can effect substantial savings in the monthly power bill. Elsewhere fluorescent lights can be used. 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:

* Making sure appropriate luminance levels (in lux) are maintained

* Using zoned lighting, with separate controls

* Propagating use of task lighting

* Choosing light fittings with built-in daylight sensors, to make the most of natural light

* Installing infrared motion detectors for automatic lighting control

* 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 good contractor will be able to log and report 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  companies who will collect and recycle office waste.

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

* Installing insulation whenever possible – it will help keep the facility cool in summer and warm in winter

* Boilers can waste lots of energy and money – spend some time choosing the right boiler for your building needs

* Clever air-conditioning systems use heat exchangers to capture surplus heat to warm 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 services 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.

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.

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:

* Wasting less water

* Choosing low water flow fittings

* Using low flush toilets

* Using waterless urinals

* Using rainwater or grey water systems

* Fitting a reliable leak detection system

* Including proximity detection shut-off to the water supply for all WCs

iDream Advisory Services Pvt Ltd is an architectural and interior designing firm with a strong commitment to building sustainable built environments. The firm has delivered green solutions to organisations across all corners of India.

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