Moving offices to local areas and the edge of town, which many businesses are considering owing to the pandemic, might not be as environmentally sustainable as many think, according to a workplace expert.
Ann Beavis, head of sustainable development at Crown Workspace, told Facilitate that even though moving out of the city can have a positive impact on the environment it could also lead to the opposite.
Beavis said moving out of the city could lead to shorter commutes, encouraging people to walk or cycle to work, reduces pollution from city centre deliveries and provides an opportunity to create a more circular, energy-efficient office environment.
But it could also just as easily lead to a greater reliance on car travel, unnecessary replacement of office furniture and interiors, and require an energy-intensive new-build which would negatively impact the environment.
In addition, the local economic and social fabric of a city community should be a major consideration when analysing the sustainability impacts.
Beavis said there were sustainability issues that businesses had to be aware of if they were thinking of leaving the city centre.
For instance, she said, businesses should refurbish and refit an existing building rather than building a new one if they can. She said: “Businesses which decide to build a new office need to think carefully about the design, what materials they use and how energy efficient it will be.
"There’s a big drive to consider how to refit existing buildings in an energy-efficient and sustainable way, rather than knocking down and starting again.
"It’s not possible for everyone, however, and the environmental impact will depend on many factors, including where the build is taking place.”
Beavis says that "sustainable workplace change is certainly a challenge for organisations and it is important to also recognise that unintended consequences from some of the most well-meaning decisions can still be a threat".
She added: "There is increasingly excellent research being carried out that provides strong case studies and guidance for decision-makers which will help guide those who want to deliver on the sustainability agenda."