An environmentally friendly office space makeover starts with a solid plan and ends with an ongoing commitment
Renovating your office space provides the perfect opportunity to renew your dedication to going green. Incorporating green design strategies in your small business can be easier than you think—and can pay off in terms of reduced energy costs and increased business from customers who prefer working with environmentally friendly businesses.
Consider these tips for reducing your environmental footprint during the three phases of your office remodel.
1. Before the demolition: Planning a greener office
The decisions you make before the remodel begins are critical. Hire local contractors with a reputation for environmentally efficient business practices. Then work closely with the contractors in choosing new materials and furnishings.
When it comes to selecting your flooring, consider that bamboo, cork, or reclaimed wood are usually more environmentally friendly than carpeting, although many low-VOC carpets are available. Low-VOC products have reduced amounts of volatile organic compounds, chemicals that have short- and long-term health effects that are harmful to people and the environment.
Lighting is another area where you can make a big difference without a big impact on your budget. “Add skylights and transoms where you can,” says Robert Criner, GMR, GMB, CAPS, CGP, president of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, Virginia. Natural light can reduce the need for electrical lighting. Research LED lighting—but remember “not all LEDs are created equal—look at the Kelvin rating,” advises Criner. Install motion sensors so lights turn off when the room is empty.
Also consider installing task lighting—which provides illumination for a specific work area, as opposed to the entire room, suggests Evadne Giannini, principal of HospitalityGreen, a New York-based consulting firm.
In terms of countertops and cabinetry, research where your new products are coming from. “Just about any surface can be made from recycled material—from desktops to countertops,” says Criner. But he urges common sense: “Don’t order granite from the other side of the country when there’s a granite distributor right next door,” he says. “You may find a wonderful recycled countertop—but if it has to be shipped across the country to get to you, is it really ‘green’?”
As for appliances, purchase Energy Star-rated. “New energy-efficient hot-water heaters and furnaces can make a world of difference” in terms of saving energy and ultimately saving utility costs, says Criner. What’s more, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit (visit www.energystar.gov).
2. During the renovation: Greener installation
Once you’ve planned your remodel and the real work of the renovation begins, you can take a number of steps to continue the greening trend.
Recycle what you demolish. “Think about how you handle your debris,” says Criner. Old insulation, wall board, and carpeting can usually be recycled instead of sent to the landfill. And Habitat for Humanity accepts donated building supplies, cabinetry, etc.
Check on your contractors as they install new windows and doors to be sure the insulation is sufficient, with proper caulking, says Giannini. These openings are a leading cause of heat loss in many homes; insulation will prevent air leaks and save utility costs.
In addition, make sure your water systems have aerators, which allow water to pass through while introducing air into the system. Aerators, which cost only a few dollars, help purify the water, says Giannini.
Finally, follow up to be sure your contractor is using reduced-VOC products. Low- and no-VOC paints are offered by many manufacturers, and low-VOC adhesives can be used to glue down carpets, says Criner.
3. After the renovation: Ongoing commitment
Once you’ve cut the ribbon on your new office space, continue your green efforts by encouraging employees to recycle everything from paper and aluminum to pallets, says Criner.
In addition, use “third-party-certified all-purpose cleaners” for ongoing maintenance, advises Giannini.
And don’t forget to promote your new “greener” office to your customers.