by Ali Kriscenski

Creating a sustainable office can contribute to energy savings, employee wellness, and improved productivity. Advancements in green building and eco-friendly products have made it more feasible for business owners to create sustainable offices and harness the triple-bottom-line benefits.

Whether you are building new, embarking on renovations, or looking to implement greener office policies, there are actions every company can take to become more sustainable. Sustainable offices can utilize healthy indoor air quality practices, waste reduction policies, green procurement strategies, and energy efficiency measures without significant capital investment. Larger sustainability moves can include green building renovations, renewable energy systems, and innovative governance or profit-sharing structures. Today’s sustainable offices take many forms and can be realized according to your business priorities.

Sustainable Office Principles

A great place to start your work towards a sustainable office is to survey your current conditions and situations against some sustainability basics. A few touchpoints can not only help you get started, they can also form the framework for your overall sustainability strategy. It can be useful to compile a few operational goals, and then keep these in mind as you explore sustainable office opportunities.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) refers to a range of building conditions that can impact its occupants. These include lighting, temperature, humidity, odors, tobacco smoke, chemical exposure, and physical hazards. Providing natural daylighting, consistent temperature and humidity, and eliminating odors, smoke and chemicals are all tactics that can improve IEQ. For example, adding natural daylighting in office spaces can increase worker energy levels, reduce absenteeism, decrease accidents and improve morale. Another way to improve IEQ is to enact policies that protect workers from secondhand smoke, such as creating tobacco-free offices or requiring designated smoking sections to be clear of windows or entrances.

Energy Efficiency

New buildings benefit from state-of-the-art energy systems, while older buildings can be impacted by older systems that may be less energy efficient. Regardless of the existing systems in your office, there are ways to improve energy efficiency with small improvements. Movement sensors can reduce electricity load by providing lighting only when spaces are occupied. Policies that require all electronics to be turned off or even unplugged during off hours. Other strategies can include switching lighting to LED throughout a facility and purchasing printers with power management options.

Stormwater Management

An often overlooked way to create sustainable offices is to look at a facility’s grounds to see how it impacts local waterways. Stormwater runoff can carry contaminants from a variety of manmade sources such as rooftops, tires, landscaping chemicals, and all potential pollutants to local streams and waterways. Native landscaping that requires less fertilizer can help reduce runoff contamination. Permeable hardscapes can help absorb stormwater back into the ground to be filtered. Another option is to create car and fleet maintenance programs, including commercial car washes, to help keep chemicals from becoming part of stormwater runoff on-site.

Waste Reduction and Diversion

Waste from office buildings can contribute to operational costs and have a negative impact on the environment. Luckily, initiatives to reduce waste require more changes in behavior than capital investment. Policies like printing double-sided documents, recycling, and even composting can help reduce your office waste. Programs that help divert waste include donating outdated items such as office furniture, providing reusable tableware and utensils, and diverting food waste to local charities or farms (for chicken feed) can have a significant impact on your office sustainability goals. 

Innovating A Sustainable Office Culture

A sustainable office is one that benefits employees on a daily basis and helps align teams behind company missions. They are healthier, more productive, and lower operational expenses that can be diverted into employee wellness and team-building initiatives. Sustainability programs require team efforts and using them to align employees can increase morale. Many employees are active in charitable programs outside of work and find the opportunity to engage in value-based programs at work to be personally fulfilling.  

Creating a Sustainability Team to contribute ideas and time towards program goals can help embed sustainable thinking into everyday operations. Enlisting professional expertise in energy and systems improvements can be another way to boost the creation of a sustainable office environment. Learn more about how  Therma’s energy experts can help you meet your sustainability targets. Contact us today.



Ali Kriscenski was trained in high-performance building design at Boston Architectural College. She has worked with leading architecture and construction firms in NYC and New England and served on the executive team at the Forest Stewardship Council International. She was the managing editor at Inhabitat and has worked pro bono for the Green Building Institute, ISEAL Alliance, and Habitat for Humanity.



American Journal of Public Health – Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity 

Environmental Protection Agency – Managing and Reducing Wastes: A Guide for Commercial Buildings