6 steps towards a greener, more sustainable office (+checklist)

A step-by-step guide to sustainable office design

Think sustainable office design, and it’s not just about swapping out the old for the eco-friendly new – it’s about shaping workspaces that breathe life into our daily grind. Far from a mere trend, it’s the art of blending eco-conscious decisions into the fabric of our offices, making sustainability the norm, not the exception.

Ready to flip the script on your office environment? This guide walks you through six simple yet impactful steps to weave sustainability into your office’s DNA, creating a space where productivity blooms and the environment thanks you.

Photography by Escandi, Bolon, Muuto, Vitra, Montana, Fritz Hansen and Fredericia


Escandi Forum Fastighetsekonomi Malmö Sweden

It’s an ethos – a commitment to integrating green practices and materials into every layer of a workspace’s architecture and interior design.

What exactly entails a sustainable office design for today and tomorrow?

At its core, sustainable office design transcends the mere selection of eco-friendly desks or the installation of LED lights. It’s an ethos – a commitment to integrating green practices and materials into every layer of a workspace’s architecture and interior design. Think of it as crafting a workspace that does more than house your operations; it reflects a deep-rooted commitment to the planet’s health and the well-being of those who inhabit these spaces daily.

The three pillars

Diving deeper, sustainable office design is supported by three critical pillars: environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Together, they form a robust framework for creating work environments that are as nurturing as they are functional.

Environmental sustainability – harmony with nature

Focused on reducing our ecological footprint, this pillar champions the use of renewable resources, emphasises recycling and reusability, and selects materials that have minimal impact on our environment. It’s about creating offices that not only function efficiently but also contribute positively to the world around us.

Economic sustainability – efficiency and savings

This pillar looks at sustainability through a financial lens, ensuring that eco-friendly choices are also economically viable. It acknowledges that while some green solutions may require upfront investments, they pay off in the long run with reduced operational costs and a smaller carbon footprint. It’s smart spending with a conscience.

Social sustainability – well-being and community

The human aspect of sustainable design focuses on creating spaces that promote well-being, enhance productivity, and foster a sense of belonging. It’s about designing offices that people are excited to come to, where they feel valued and inspired. This pillar recognises that a truly sustainable office is one that uplifts its occupants, creating a positive ripple effect throughout the entire community.

The impact, a ripple effect

Embracing sustainable office design has far-reaching benefits. It helps in significantly reducing carbon footprints, making a tangible contribution to the fight against climate change. It boosts employee satisfaction, leading to a more motivated and committed workforce. And it ensures long-term cost savings, proving that what’s good for the planet is also good for business.

It helps you see where straightforward substitutions can pivot you closer to your green goals.

01. Assess your current design

Embarking on the journey toward a sustainable office design necessitates a thorough appraisal of your current setup. It’s a moment to shine a light on every corner of your workspace, identifying how each aspect – from energy use to waste management – plays a part in your environmental footprint. This initial step is vital, not just for pinpointing areas ripe for eco-enhancement but for setting a baseline from which genuine progress can be measured.

Understanding your environmental impact

Begin with a holistic view of your office’s relationship with the environment. Delve into the origins and life cycle of the physical elements that make up your workspace. Examine everything from the materials your furniture is made of to the source of your office supplies. This step isn’t about casting blame but about uncovering opportunities for making more environmentally friendly choices. Conducting an inventory of your office items to discern their sustainability quotient can be an eye-opening experience. It helps you see where straightforward substitutions can pivot you closer to your green goals.

Conducting an energy consumption audit

The heartbeat of your office’s environmental impact often lies in its energy consumption. Understanding where your energy goes is crucial. Does your office lighting blaze long into the night, unnoticed and unchecked? Could that ancient, humming refrigerator in the break room be a secret energy vampire? Conducting an energy audit reveals these hidden truths, guiding you toward more efficient practices. Consider the immediate benefits of switching to LED bulbs or the long-term gains from investing in energy-efficient climate control systems. Each discovery during your audit is a stepping stone towards reducing your carbon footprint.

Taking a look at waste management

Waste management is where your green intentions can quickly accumulate tangible results. Assessing how waste is handled in your office uncovers not just how much is recycled, but how much could be diverted from landfills with a bit more thought. Is there a robust system for separating recyclables from general waste? How is electronic waste collected and disposed of? This examination often reveals simple adjustments – like setting up well-marked recycling stations or moving towards a digital-first document policy – that can dramatically reduce your office’s waste output.

Escandi Forum Fastighetsekonomi Malmö Sweden

Yet, with thoughtful planning, these giants can tread lightly.

02. Plan for energy efficiency

Once you’ve mapped the terrain of your current office environment, it’s time to chart a course towards a more energy-efficient future. It involves a keen focus on the elements that power your workspace – lighting, climate control and everyday devices – and how these can be optimised to reduce carbon footprints and harness the power of technology and nature for a brighter, cleaner office life.

Elevating lighting to eco-friendly heights

Lighting plays a starring role in your energy consumption narrative. Traditional lighting not only consumes an excessive amount of electricity but also generates heat, further straining your cooling systems. Transitioning to energy-saving lighting, such as LEDs, casts your workspace in a new light – brighter, less energy-intensive and cooler. But the illumination revolution doesn’t stop with bulb choices. Integrating smart lighting systems that automatically adjust based on occupancy and daylight levels transforms your office into a dynamically lit ecosystem, responsive to its inhabitants and the world outside.

Reimagining climate control for efficiency

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are the silent giants of energy consumption in the office. Yet, with thoughtful planning, these giants can tread lightly. Upgrading to energy-efficient systems is a significant stride towards sustainability, but coupling this with smart thermostats and sensors elevates it to a fine art. These intelligent systems can adapt temperature settings in real-time, ensuring comfort without excess and drawing on outside air when conditions are right to reduce the need for mechanical cooling or heating.

Harnessing the power of smart devices

In the modern office, numerous devices and gadgets punctuate our working day, each drawing power from the grid. Planning for energy efficiency encompasses selecting devices that meet the Energy Star standards or equivalent, and integrating smart power strips and energy management systems that ensure these devices consume electricity only when needed. This careful selection and management can turn your array of office equipment from a fleet of energy consumers into a disciplined lineup of efficiency champions.

Maximising natural light

Perhaps the most elegant solution in the energy efficiency playbook is leveraging natural light. Architectural and interior design adjustments that maximise the influx of daylight can dramatically reduce reliance on artificial lighting. Skylights, larger windows and strategically placed mirrors that reflect daylight deep into your office space can illuminate your work environment in a way that’s both beautiful and profoundly energy-efficient.

Today, sustainable flooring options are not only kind to the planet but also scream high design.

03. Choose sustainable materials

After lighting the way with energy efficiency, it’s time to lay the foundation – quite literally – with sustainable materials. We’re not just talking a splash of green paint here and there; we’re diving into the world of recycled, renewable and low-emission materials that give your workspace style, substance and sustainability creds all in one go.

Eco-friendly flooring

Let’s start from the bottom up with flooring. Gone are the days when eco-friendly meant you had to settle for less-than-stellar aesthetics. Today, sustainable flooring options are not only kind to the planet but also scream high design. Each material brings its own unique vibe, transforming floors into statements of both style and sustainability.

Walls with a green thumbprint

Moving up to the walls, sustainable doesn’t mean you’re boxed in. From recycled glass tiles that sparkle with possibility to low-VOC paints that leave the air as fresh as their colours, your walls become canvases for environmental responsibility. And let’s not overlook wallpaper made from recycled content or natural fibres, turning every wall into a conversation starter about sustainability.

Escandi Fritz Hansen
Escandi Bolon

Your furniture is not just sustainable but also endlessly adaptable.

04. Select eco-friendly furniture

Now that the stage is set with sustainable materials, let’s talk furniture – the characters in our green office narrative that make the space truly perform. Imagine furniture that not only whispers tales of sustainability but also stands the test of time, both in durability and design.

The seal of green approval

When hunting for furniture, keep your eyes peeled for sustainability certifications such as FSC, Greenguard and Cradle to Cradle. They’re your guideposts to making genuinely sustainable choices. Furniture boasting an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification ensures that wood has been sourced from responsibly managed forests. Greenguard certification signifies that a product has met some of the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And Cradle to Cradle? It’s the holy grail of sustainability, ensuring that products are designed with circular life cycles in mind – made to be made again.

Local sourcing

Embracing local sourcing is like giving the planet a high-five. It means fewer miles travelled, lower carbon emissions and supporting local economies. Plus, there’s something profoundly satisfying about knowing the journey of your office chair from a nearby craftsman’s workshop to its starring role in your workspace.

Built to last and love

Sustainable furniture is also about longevity and adaptability. Choosing pieces that are not just durable but also timeless ensures they won’t end up in a landfill after a brief stint of use. It’s about investing in furniture that can stand up to the wear and tear of daily office life and still look chic and relevant as years roll by. And when wear and tear do happen, because let’s face it, life happens – opt for furniture that can be easily repaired or updated. A detachable cover here, a replaceable component there and voilà! Your furniture is not just sustainable but also endlessly adaptable.

Escandi Bästa Kompisar Malmö Sweden

Introducing plants into a workspace can increase productivity by up to 15%.

05. Incorporate biophilic design

As we delve deeper into creating a sustainable office, the transformative power of biophilic design takes centre stage. This approach is a strategic integration backed by compelling research, proving that nature in the workspace significantly boosts well-being, productivity and mental health.

Let there be (natural) light

Maximising natural light is the cornerstone of biophilic design. Studies reveal that exposure to natural light can lead to a remarkable reduction in eye strain, headaches and feelings of drowsiness. In fact, workplaces abundant in natural light see an uptick in energy, creativity and overall employee happiness.

Plant life

Incorporating plant life into office design goes beyond mere decoration; it’s a vital component of a healthy, dynamic work environment. Research underscores the benefits: offices with plant life and greenery report a significant drop in stress and anxiety among employees, alongside an improvement in air quality. A study by Exeter University found that introducing plants into a workspace can increase productivity by up to 15%.

Escandi Fritz Hansen
Escandi Muuto

It’s about creating a system where sustainability is the easiest option.

06. Implement green office practices

Elevating your office’s sustainability is about more than just talking the talk; it’s about rallying the entire team to walk the walk. This transition is rooted in small, simple shifts in mindset that collectively blossom into a culture deeply ingrained in eco-consciousness. Here’s how to cultivate this culture of sustainability through everyday office practices.

Kickstart recycling programs

A robust recycling initiative is the bedrock of a green office. It’s about setting a stage where recycling becomes second nature, with clear, accessible options for everything from paper to e-waste. It’s about creating a system where sustainability is the easiest option.

Embrace a paper-light philosophy

Adopting digital-first workflows marks a significant leap towards reducing paper consumption. Encouraging practices like digital document sharing and double-sided printing can dramatically decrease the office’s reliance on paper, streamlining operations while safeguarding forests.

Promote sustainable commuting

Transforming the daily commute into an eco-friendly expedition can significantly reduce the office’s overall carbon emissions. By supporting bike-to-work schemes, facilitating carpooling or subsidising public transport, you’re cutting down on pollution and enhancing employee well-being through physical activity and stress reduction.

Cultivating a green mindset

The essence of implementing green office practices lies in nurturing a mindset where sustainability is a shared value, championed by all. It requires a collective effort, from leadership exemplifying eco-friendly habits to employees being encouraged to innovate and participate.

The checklist

Creating a sustainable office is a journey that reshapes our interaction with the environment, our work habits and even our collective well-being. This comprehensive guide outlines the pivotal steps towards embedding sustainability into every aspect of office design.
1. Assess your current design
Conduct an environmental impact review.
Audit energy consumption across all areas.
Examine waste management protocols.
Highlight opportunities for eco-enhancement.
2. Plan for energy efficiency
Transition to energy-saving lighting solutions.
Upgrade to efficient climate control systems.
Implement smart sensors for energy management.
Maximise the use of natural light.
3. Choose sustainable materials
Opt for eco-friendly flooring materials.
Select low-VOC paints and finishes for walls.
Prioritise recycled and renewable materials
4. Select eco-friendly furniture
Look for furniture with sustainability certifications.
Emphasise durability and timeless design.
Advocate for local sourcing and repairability.
5. Incorporate biophilic design
Enhance spaces with natural light.
Integrate plant life throughout the office.
6. Implement green office practices
Initiate comprehensive recycling programs.
Promote a paper-light office environment.
Encourage sustainable commuting options.
Foster a culture of environmental mindfulness.

Ready to elevate your workspace into a model of sustainability? Escandi is on hand to turn these sustainable dreams into reality. Contact us at info@escandi.se, and let’s collaborate to create an office environment where eco-friendly practices are woven into every aspect, fostering a healthier planet and a thriving workplace.