With the number of employees working five-days a week in the office now at its highest level since COVID, it would be easy to think that life is fully back to normal.
However, that assumption doesn’t tell the full story.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise: few things make people reassess their priorities more promptly than the collective trauma of a deadly pandemic. That sharp focus on health has served to shift mindsets, with many of us now much more conscious of the need to make eco-friendly choices, and workers more likely than ever before to choose companies with robust environmental policies.
We also know that workers everywhere have gained a greater appreciation not only for flexibility and the option to work from home some of the time, but also for a better life/work balance and an improved quality of life.
These changes are here to stay. Yet coming out the other side of the pandemic, some businesses are still struggling to find their way. They may have previously downsized and now find their space isn’t fit for purpose. They’re demanding more flexibility from their HQs. They want spaces which are energy efficient, smart and agile. So, what does it all mean for commercial real estate, and for landlords?
By focusing on practical yet flexible design principles, greener material choices, and smarter technology, landlords can not only attract environmentally conscious occupants but also contribute to the collective shift towards more sustainable and productive workspaces in the UK.
Here, we delve into ten curated office design concepts for landlords, exploring how design and choice of materials play a part into the creation of highly rentable office spaces where organisations thrive.
Design Idea 1: Showcase Natural Lighting and Ventilation
How do you like to spend your day? Few, if any of us, are likely to reply that our ideal day is spent sitting at a desk under cold neon lights, staring at a screen, breathing in air perfumed with the smell of our co-workers’ lunches.
Designing office spaces that harness the power of natural light and ventilation can work wonders to improve working conditions and therefore, the attractiveness of the building to tenants.
- Consider installing energy-efficient windows with UV-coated glazing to ensure optimal sunlight penetration while minimising heat gain.
- Skylights strategically placed in common areas and workspaces further enhance the overall illumination, reducing reliance on artificial lighting, and can also help to improve air flow.
- Where there is an abundance of natural light, plants thrive. Living walls don’t just bring a splash of nature to the office, they can also absorb sound and purify the air.
Design Idea 2: Flexible Workspace Layouts
Modern work environments demand adaptability. Let’s face it, we all crave a change from time to time. Landlords can facilitate this by incorporating modular and sustainable furniture, such as movable partitions and adjustable desks.
- Providing tenants with modular workstations that can be easily reconfigured supports dynamic work arrangements, from collaborative meetings to focused individual tasks.
- Modular room design allows building users to reconfigure their space to meet their needs at any given time. This can greatly improve productivity and ensures the office itself continues to fulfil its purpose, no matter how many times that purpose changes.
Design Idea 3: Green Walls and Indoor Plants
The mood-boosting effects of indoor plants are well known, so why not incorporate them into the office space? Living walls or strategically placing indoor plants enhances both air quality and aesthetics.
- Consider installing a vertical garden system with low-maintenance plant varieties in communal areas. This not only contributes to a healthier workspace but also serves as a visually striking focal point, promoting a connection to nature within the office.
Design Idea 4: Facilitate Wellbeing Spaces
Modern offices absolutely need communal spaces: nobody likes feeling like a cog in a machine. The sense of isolation that comes from working alone in a cubicle all day isn’t something many of us wish to relive. Dedicated areas for employee well-being are pivotal in fostering a positive work environment.
- Consider creating a relaxation zone, incorporating biophilic elements like potted plants and nature-inspired artwork, providing a serene escape within the office that promotes mental well-being.
- Transform wasted or unused space into hubs for wellness, with yoga mats, foam rollers or even gym equipment such as weights. Workouts are known mood boosters making them the perfect addition to any office.
Design Idea 5: Feature Eco-Friendly Flooring
Making deliberate choices in flooring materials showcases a commitment to sustainability, which an increasing number of employees greatly appreciates.
- Bamboo flooring, known for its renewability and durability, is an excellent choice.
- Alternatively, reclaimed wood sourced from local suppliers not only adds character but also reduces the demand for new resources.
- Opt for carpet tiles made from recycled materials, offering flexibility and ease of maintenance.
Design Idea 6: Make Space for Recycled and Upcycled Furniture
Furnishing office spaces with recycled or upcycled furniture introduces an element of uniqueness while contributing to waste reduction. For instance, outfitting common areas with sofas and chairs upholstered in recycled fabrics not only reduces landfill waste, but also adds a touch of sustainability to communal spaces.
- Source furniture that boasts strong sustainability principles, such as unusual materials made from surplus or unwanted waste products.
- Upcycle unwanted furniture and building components to create useful and functional new pieces. Pallets can be used to create exterior tables and seating areas, for example.
Design Idea 7: Make Way for Waste Reduction Strategies
The 3 ‘R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) are a good starting point for any waste reduction strategy and can be easily incorporated into your office design project. Reducing waste in the first place should be the main objective, with reusing and recycling coming into play when the former is not an option.
Implementing a holistic waste management system goes beyond recycling bins.
- Encourage tenants to adopt a paperless approach by providing shared digital resources and reusable office supplies.
- Additionally, you can collaborate with waste management companies that specialise in electronic waste disposal to responsibly manage and recycle outdated office electronics.
Design Idea 8: Energy-Efficient Heating, Appliances and Lighting
Energy costs are a significant expense in any office building, so integrating energy saving and efficiency measures into your office design simply makes good business sense.
- Integrating energy-efficient appliances, such as ENERGY STAR-rated office equipment, significantly reduces energy consumption to keep building running costs lower.
- For lighting, consider installing LED fixtures with motion sensors in common areas and workspaces. This not only provides ample illumination but also ensures lights are only active when needed, promoting energy conservation.
- Consider the use of energy recovery technology to supplement heating and hot water.
Design Idea 9: Don’t Skimp on Smart Building Technologies
The integration of smart building technologies represents a forward-thinking approach to office design. Smart technology is not only future facing, it’s also more convenient and can provide tenants with considerable savings.
- For example, deploying a Building Management System (BMS) with occupancy sensors for lighting and HVAC systems optimises energy usage based on real-time needs. This technology not only enhances operational efficiency but also reduces overall energy consumption.
Design Idea 10: Explore Water-Efficient Design
Strategic water management is a cornerstone of sustainable office design. And the good news is there are plenty of ways to save water within your design, no matter the size or type of tenant you’re looking to attract.
- Install water-efficient fixtures such as low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets in restrooms.
- Consider xeriscaping – an environmentally conscious landscaping approach that minimises water usage – for outdoor spaces, reducing the need for irrigation and promoting responsible water resource management.
If you’re ready to embark on your next design project, speak to our friendly team to learn more about how we can help.