Green workplace, great workplace
More commercial spaces are now adopting the sustainable workplace design and strategy. We find out what goes into the making of a Green office and how organisations can enhance their triple bottom lines by using green furniture
A recent landmark research by the University of San Diego and CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc has further confirmed that going green is not only good for the conscience but it is in fact better for the money purse. The report has found that tenants in green offices are more productive, based on two counts: the average number of tenant sick days and the self-reported productivity change.
Respondents reported an average of 2.88 fewer sick days in their current green office versus their previous non-green office, and more than 50% respondents indicated that employee productivity had improved. If you calculate the net monetary impact based on the average tenant salary and 250 workdays a year, you will realise why the report is called ‘Do Green Buildings Make Dollars and Sense?’.
Notwithstanding the outcome of the recently held Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, corporates across the world – and more so in India – are realising that a green workplace actually brings down costs, enhances productivity, improves brand image, adds to the shareholder’s value and of course, is environment friendly.
The green workplace starts with a green building. A building that adheres to the philosophy of ‘Reuse, Reduce and Recycle’ can be termed as a green building. It uses recycled and/or eco-friendly construction material; optimises natural lighting; reduces, recycles and manages its own waste; has good indoor air quality and is energy efficient. Of course, anybody designing a green space without giving proper consideration to the people factor is terribly off the mark. After all, any space is defined by its occupants. This is directly linked to employee productivity and therefore with the company’s profitability.
The right choice
It is in the context of the people factor that the selection of office equipment, air conditioning, office furniture, lighting, office accessories, etc. plays a key role. What’s more important is that while performing their core functions, these components also have to be green in nature. A green office will therefore invest in computers, monitors and printers that perform well and also save electricity. So while giving the perfect brightness, the lighting should also consume less power. In fact, now it is even possible to add the element of intelligent control to lighting. For instance, Bajaj Electricals has used lighting controls from the UK based Helvar for its first green office located in Chennai. These controls come with a multi-sensor, which detects the presence of people and switches on and off automatically thus saving on power consumption.
Likewise, while conditioning the air as per the occupant requirement, the HVAC system should also ensure that it is energy efficient, ecofriendly and should not disturb the occupants in any way. For example, Kirloskar Brothers Ltd’s new corporate office at Baner, in Pune uses water cooled VRV air conditioning system with CO2 sensors for monitoring its levels and optimising intake of fresh air.
Similarly by choosing the right kind of furniture, a business can not only create the perfect work environment for its employees but can also substantially enhance its green equity. Thankfully, architects and designers now also understand that that next only to the built environment, in large floor-plate offices of today, furniture can play a vital role in improving the green quotient of the office environment due to sheer volumes. Thus, making the correct choice can double the impact of positivity.
Across the lifespan
It is seldom realised that while a building may last for about 80 years, its furniture has a lifespan of just 5-10 years. Thus, in a building’s lifecycle, furniture needs to be changed at least eight times – impacting the environment more than any other component. Recognising this critical need, leading manufacturers of office furniture like Godrej Interio have committed themselves to manufacturing less polluting and eco-friendly furniture products. It is noteworthy that as a manufacturer, Godrej Interio had adopted the sustainability mantra of ‘Reuse, Reduce and Recycle’ much before the advent of the green movement in India. In line with this, it manufactures products that are designed with durability as the prime criterion which enhances product lifespan. Products are also easily serviceable in terms of assembling, reconfiguring and dismantling them, making it possible to refurbish for reuse.
Green work stations
Work stations have witnessed an amazing transformation with the evolution of the corporate culture as well as in the light of green office concept. Earlier, a work station included a monolithic table with a chair or two thrown around it. Today, a work station is the hub of delivery in most offices.
Green workstations made from recycled materials like wood substitutes (particle board, medium density fibre board) are 60% recyclable. Even, the packaging material used for these work station contains high recycled material which otherwise is a major waste. (Recycling principles are also used in manufacturing processes, like recycling of water for effective utilisation of in-process waste water, which after effluent treatment is used for watering gardens.). The use of recycled material reduces an organization’s demand on nature and thereby reduces it environmental footprints.
Thus, using the green work stations – for example the wide range of modular workstations and storages from Godrej Interio – can comprehensively increase the Green performance of a work place.
Triple bottom lines
Green furniture from manufacturers like Godrej not only works for the conservation of the ecosystem but also work towards enhancing the ‘Triple Bottom Lines’ of the organizations using it. It improves the organization’s Economic Performance, by optimum usage of more durable and wear and tear resistant material like mild steel, increase the overall life span of the product by around five years. Thus, the overall cost of acquisition is reduced by 33%. The use of modular partitions systems also presents opportunity to reconfiguring and refurbishing the office with quick change of upholstery of the tiles. This increases the life span of the product and also helps in reducing the furniture budget.
Green furniture positively impacts an organization’s environment performance, by maximising the usage of recycled material. For example, the boards used in Godrej workstations have a recycled content of 20%.
Green furniture enhances the organization’s Societal Performance by offering a range of low height partitions which allows for good ventilation and natural lighting of the office environment. This way, it provides cleaner and healthier environment for the workforce. The perforated tiles provided in the partitions improve the air circulation in the office as well as bring down the overall AC load.
As Dr Norm Miller from the University of San Diego who has overseen the report mentioned in the beginning says: “This is an exciting time for the commercial real estate industry where great values and great investment upgrade opportunities coexist. We have now confirmed in this and other studies that green features and energy savings pays off.”
India’s second greenest building is an office complex
Kirloskar Brothers Ld’s new corporate office – Yamuna – at Baner, in Pune is the second greenest building of the country with a ‘Platinum’ certification – the highest from LEED. Spread over 12,000 sq m, ‘Yamuna’ is aesthetically designed and has ergonomic furniture with an open plan office to provide maximum comfort while working. Following are some of its highlights:
• Water cooled VRV air conditioning system with CO2 sensors for monitoring its levels and optimising intake of fresh air.
• Photovoltaic panels on the roof generate electricity; about 2.6% of electricity consumption is contributed by solar power.
• Maximum use of glass and provision of skylights to tap natural light. 90% of work space is illumined with natural lights.
• Usage of energy efficient gadgets like low powered CFL fixtures and LCD monitors.
• Recharge pits for rainwater harvesting.
• The entire campus is a ‘non smoking’ area.
Green furniture improves IAQ
IAQ or Indoor Air Quality is a key term with regards to green office spaces. That’s because indoor air is sometimes 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air due to harmful emissions from innocuous looking parts of office environment such as carpets, sealants used in building materials and furniture. These emissions if unchecked can cause headaches and dizziness, trigger asthma and allergies and over the long term may cause reproductive and developmental problems, neurological disorders, heart diseases and cancer.
Keeping this in mind, Godrej Interio has worked on its materials and processing to control the level of emissions from its furniture. Godrej Stallion Green, Spacio Green and Unite Storages have been awarded the Greenguard certification for meeting the most stringent IAQ norms. “Environment conservation is ‘The’ way of life at Godrej Interio and our Greenguard certified products are just the visible examples of our commitment to the environment. It’s good to see that the consumer now see and believe in benefits offered by Green products and we are gearing up to come out with more eco friendly products in the near future,” remarks Anil Sain Mathur, COO, Godrej Interio.