3. Category A amenities are unnecessary (and should probably stop)
Most new buildings are finished to Grade A, but many tenants then spend time and money (and emissions) tearing them down and starting over, to put their own stamp on a space. It’s an own goal and a practice that could end. There is a conversation that needs to take place between developers, landlords and tenants from the start. We should replace generic Grade A equipment with “bespoke” equipment where possible, to avoid wasting material, carbon, money and time. It also brings greater control and accountability of emissions to the tenant. Industry bodies are also pushing it; Here in the UK, the British Council of Offices position paper 2022 offers guidance on how the project approach to embodied carbon should be reformed and improved.
4. Commit to a retention strategy
In the era of sustainable choices, the new construction approach should already seem historic. Another encouragement is that huge savings can be made by renovating existing spaces by intelligently retaining existing functional elements. From fronts and services to partitions and furniture, there’s a lot that can usually be kept and reused – it’s just a choice that too often isn’t made. For example, a recent review of a Derwent project in London concluded that up to 80% savings were possible by retaining existing wiring and electrical trunking. This has not just cost savings, but carbon savings incarnate.
5. Embrace the circular economy
Our research shows that one simple choice can drastically reduce development emissions: avoid installing new raised floor systems. These panels, made of particleboard encapsulated in steel, are particularly carbonaceous and spread over the floor of most offices. As materials, they are very difficult to recycle because they cannot be easily deconstructed, mostly ending up in a landfill to be replaced with something functionally identical. This factor alone contributes about 15% of the embodied carbon emissions of category B equipment. So what to do?
For new construction, there are now more durable, low-emission raised floor options on the market. For new construction and renovation projects, designers need to approach the project differently to reduce carbon emissions.