Absorb all you like about the theory of sustainability, but putting it into practice requires thought and effort. See how two companies are reacting to market demands and have brought sustainability into every day operations.

Christian Mabey, Managing Director, Optima Products, is seeing a definite shift toward more sustainable office design, not only in terms of green specification, but how intuitive and empathetic interiors have a positive effect on staff wellbeing and performance.

The recent supply chain disruption resulting in material shortages, and the stark messages from COP26 will encourage a more sparing and circular attitude towards specification.

Shifting employee and employer attitudes towards the role of the workplace is highlighting how the modern office needs to be much more than four walls and
a photocopier. To ‘sustain’ and ‘maintain’ a healthy, happy workforce, professional destinations now need to be developed according to the requirements of everyone
using them.

It’s a challenge and an opportunity for commercial construction and design. This evolving attitude towards the workspace, and higher expectations, are encouraging
fit-out professionals to reconsider traditional approaches to specification.

The good news is that the design community has access to sufficient data and tools to measure the carbon footprint of a project, and more clients are now placing sustainability, as well as wellbeing, at the heart of their office fit-out project.

So here are a few of the most important things to consider when looking to place emphasis on sustainability and wellbeing within your next project:

Less is more
The construction and design sector has an unwelcome reputation for material wastage but in recent years, we’ve become better at introducing circular principles into our
business models, particularly with regards to interior fixtures, fittings, and finishes.

Importantly, manufacturers are using more green energy to power processes than ever before and more products are being made with higher percentages of recycled materials. Product design now considers modularity and re-use as key features.

The challenge is more about repurposing what already exists within a building and that’s why initiatives like manufacturer take-back schemes will become increasingly important. This scenario will encourage a culture of re-use, cutting down on material waste and helping to deliver maximum value from the component for the existing client, manufacturer and future customer.

Ripe for repurpose
As a sector, we need ramp up our efforts towards repurposing existing stock and spotting opportunities to reuse structurally sound stock in new designs, which is why
we’re hearing more and more about the concept of urban mining.

Simply put, this is an effective way of banking embodied carbon through re-use, and saves on the production of new materials, thus limiting emissions. The idea is gathering traction in the office specification community and we should soon see the principle become commonplace.

It’s clear that we need to encourage clients to invest in sustainable design at every opportunity, helping to make the case for why this will benefit everyone. Further, we need to share our expertise, demonstrating why achieving a sustainable workplace is far more than the sum of material parts (important as these are).

Evolving employee priorities
We are seeing a growing understanding of the importance of creating workspaces that go beyond basic functionality and practicality. Modern employees want safe, comfortable, and visually appealing environments. Given there’s a direct correlation between these factors, and mployee engagement we must anticipate these organisational changes by creating spaces that can evolve with time.

There is much more to sustainability than green credentials and re-used materials. It’s essentially an opportunity to create a space where staff can thrive in the
workplace. Therefore, as specifiers and fit-out professionals, we must encourage our clients to see the true value in investing in sustainable, smart design.

Flooring take-back
RMF Installation and Services Ltd is a contractor in the supply and installation of raised floors and demonstrates an example of a circular economy broker that
has identified an opportunity to maximise reuse in the interior office fit-out market. RMF works closely with strip out and demolition contractors to identify projects
where raised floor panels are being removed so that they can take them back for potential re-use.

A raised floor it is not easily recycled as it is difficult to break into its core components of chipboard and galvanised steel, meaning it often goes directly to landfill. RMF removes the carpet adhesive, then randomly tests and offers the panels back to the category B fit-out market for carpet and tile overlay.

RMF’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Rebecca Marsh, said: “We have seen an unprecedented demand for our previously used panels over the past 18 months and
the main drivers are that it offers a cost saving against new panels and secondly,that it offers a significant carbon reduction.”