Sustainable offices of the 21st century

author: Alicja Kuczera, CEO of Polish Green Bouilding Council (PLGBC)

The office you know is gone. Instead imagine a place that harmonizes with the new ways of working. A unique space with rich colors and textures. An immersive landscape in which artificial intelligence and virtual reality come together to help you solve complex problems. A place with free access to intuitive workspaces, connected conference halls, and comfortable rooms. Requirements change every day and you wake up excited to face them. Yes, it is the office of the 21st century. But do you really work in one? Or maybe you want to find out how to change your workspace to meet the expectations and development directions of the future?

Some facts: We spend 90% of our time indoors. As much as 36% of that time is spent working in office buildings. Poor health and low sense of comfort negatively affect the individual results of employees as well as the productivity of entire organizations. Few analyses emphasize that about 90% of company operating costs are related to people, and the remaining 10% are the costs of rental and energy, which means that even a slight improvement in the area of employee health and comfort can have a direct impact on the company’s financial result. For example, providing employees with access to daylight increases their productivity by up to 18%, while a better ventilation system – by 11%.

Alicja Kuczera

Hence, the space in which we spend time and work should inspire, stimulate creativity, facilitate networking and exchange of information. Climate change, generational changes on the labor market, and the growing awareness in the area of work-life balance force employers to take into account the condition of the environment and expectations of employees.

A well-designed office works together with its users. It provides comfort, positively affects creativity, and can even improve health. All this increases the creativity and productivity of employees and strengthens their loyalty to the employer. Introducing friendly solutions does not have to be expensive and difficult. For example, you can place more plants in rooms, change the arrangement of desks, or replace a vending machine with candy bars with one that serves healthy snacks. However, it is worth considering which plants best clean the air, at what distances from windows and from one another desks should be placed, and how to persuade employees to change their eating habits.

In every type of office, regardless of whether it is located in a modern, sustainable office building with technologically advanced solutions or in an older building that offers modest technical facilities, you can take a number of actions that ensure care for its users and the natural environment. The key aspect is persuading the office staff to implement certain pro-environmental behaviors. In fact, an average Polish office wastes resources (water, energy) and produces excessive waste on a daily basis. Accumulated improvements in these areas on a national scale can bring about significant positive changes.

The Polish Green Building Council (PLGBC), together with a group of experts, developed an interactive guide to a healthy, green office –, which contains answers to the above and many other important questions and discusses various solutions for office operation. The collected materials were divided into ten categories important for a sustainable office. Each category is divided into several tabs, which contain tips and example solutions together with their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Office air quality
  • Acoustics
  • Daylight and lighting
  • Thermal comfort
  • Office layout and active design
  • Positive spaces, i.e. pro-mental design
  • Nature inside and outside the office
  • Facilities in the building
  • Office users
  • Building management

Regardless of the division above, individual areas were additionally categorized according to their applicability in new and/or existing buildings as well as described by several tags, such as #health or #productivity.

The interactive guide will be helpful to anyone who wants to take action and make their office sustainable.

Change is often a process that makes us go beyond our comfort zone. But this is precisely how we develop. Creating a sustainable office of the 21st century can be such a process for some, while for others it may be mainly about “refining” the existing solutions, but one thing is certain: this change is within everyone’s reach.

The launch of the ZDROWE ZIELONE BIURO website and the Guide, discussing the contents of the website, took place on October 3, 2019 during the 9th PLGBC Green Building Symposium in Warsaw. The materials were developed by a workgroup consisting of representatives of PLGBC member companies.

Last Updated on October 28, 2020 by Łukasz