Nowadays, it is more important than ever to forge a commitment to making eco-friendly lifestyle choices. We are all more than aware of the growing deterioration of global warming; therefore, we should actively play a role in creating a sustainable world. Taking an eco-friendly approach simply means striving never to cause harm to the environment, otherwise known as ‘green living’.

While becoming more environmentally friendly is somewhat straightforward as an individual, it can be tricky when tackling a large commercial building or office. Without making sustainable updates to the property itself, it will be hard for those working inside to make a difference. With this in mind, we have collected a selection of ideas on how you can complete the sustainable refurbishment of existing buildings. Whether you operate in an office, retail unit or warehouse, these ideas will help you to begin lowering your carbon footprint.

What Is Sustainable Refurbishment Of Existing Buildings?

Before delving too deep into how you can plan a sustainable refurbishment, it is important to understand what the process relates to. Anything that falls under the ‘sustainable’ category can continue for years into the future while causing little to no damage to the environment. Taken from Wikipedia, by definition, a “sustainable refurbishment involves working on existing buildings to improve their environmental performance.” Any work completed on the property must use only sustainable methods and materials. The easiest renovations, to begin with, include the following eight.

1. Utilise Natural Lighting

There is no better sustainable, free natural resource than the sun, so use it to your advantage as much as possible. Opting to maximise and utilise natural lighting will reduce the reliance on artificial alternatives, which will not only improve efficiency but also cut costs. If you already have plenty of windows in your building, then it would merely be the case of opening up blinds or reconfiguring furniture, so nothing is blocking windows. However, if you lack windows, on the other hand, you will need to consider a renovation.

There are many different ways that you can introduce more sun into your building, including windows, roof lights and sun tunnels. The option you go ahead with will be based on your property type, budget, and whether you rent, for example, an office in a complex. Sun tunnels tend to be one of the most popular choices as they are easy to install and create a seamless appearance. More information on sun tunnels can be found on Sterling Build.

Along with improved efficiency, boosting natural lighting also comes alongside a plethora of benefits to the workplace, some of the main being the following:

  • Increased productivity and concentration
  • Less eyestrain
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts mood and workplace morale

Modern eco office

2. Boost Insulation

Insulation is a ‘must-have’ in every building, whether this may be commercial or domestic. Not only does insulation keep a building warm during the colder months, but also prevents warm outdoor air from entering during the Summer. It aims to keep each room at a steady temperature, avoiding the need to overuse heating and air conditioning; both of which increase energy bills and carbon footprint.

When considering boosting insulation, there will be many different variations to choose from. The type that you decide on will be based on your climate and the R-value that you would like. An R-value relates to how well a material can withstand heat transfer and its thickness. The higher the R-value, the better the material can prevent heat transfer. The Balance Small Business has put together an incredibly handy guide to the different types of building insulation, which is a recommended read if you are unsure of the best type for you.

3. Reclaimed Furniture

When completing a full building refurbishment, the furniture will remain one of the most costly investments. While new furniture is not immediately ‘environmentally unfriendly’, opting for purchasing those made using reclaimed materials is a super sustainable option.

Reclaimed materials are those that have had a previous life, salvaged and then remade into a different form. One of the most common materials is wood, which is commonly taken from old barns or factories and made into furniture. The furniture created will still be of the same quality and finish of those made using brand new materials, but just significantly more eco-friendly. It prevents materials that are still in good, workable condition from rotting or being burnt in the landfill site.

Fitting reclaimed furniture is a fantastic idea if you are hoping to add a touch of character to your building, particularly an office. Many items are created in unique designs, ideal for injecting character to any space. We love the collection available on Smithers Of Stamford!

Wooden office furniture

4. Install Energy Efficient Appliances

If you are aiming to boost sustainability, but want to avoid significant renovations, switching to energy-efficient appliances would be ideal. Energy-efficient appliances are a simple, yet effective concept. They aim to use as little energy as possible to complete the task at hand. Some even use renewable sources of energy, such as solar energy, instead of fossil fuels.

Appliances are grouped based on their energy efficiency rating, which can be found on a sticker usually on the back of the item. The rating involves a bar graph which ranges from A to G. Items with a rating of A are the most efficient, with G being the least. Some include additional rating including A+, A++ and A+++, again, these will be the highest efficiency.

5. Eco-Friendly Flooring

When renovating a building, you should most definitely consider eco-friendly flooring options. In most cases, you will be able to find a ‘kind to nature’ alternative to every flooring type you like the look of. It is vital to keep in mind that there are two variations of eco-flooring. Those that have been made using sustainable materials and others that have been reclaimed. Sustainable flooring has been made through methods that have had zero impact on the environment, whereas reclaimed is recycled flooring that has been given a second life. Freshome has a great guide on the most popular eco-friendly flooring solutions that will provide you with some inspiration on types available.

Seating area in commercial building

6. Switch To LED Bulbs

Switching to LED lightbulbs is one of the cheapest and easiest building renovations, but will make the most impact towards your quest to becoming sustainable. According to the Solar Electric Power Company, LED lightbulbs are 80% more efficient than their conventional alternatives. A fluorescent bulb wastes 95% of its energy down to heat, meaning that only 5% is used to light your room. LED’s, on the other hand, are the opposite. They utilise 95% of their energy to provide light and waste just 5% on heat.

Along with increased light, transitioning to LED lightbulbs comes alongside a plethora of additional benefits. Not only do they last more than 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, but they also cost six times less. They couldn’t be easier to purchase either with an array of styles available on retailers such as Lightbulbs Direct.

And even better, the efficiency of LED lightbulbs does not come to an end when they reach the end of their lifecycle. Unlike fluorescent lighting that is filled with chemicals that contaminate landfill waste, LEDs are completely recyclable.

Changing lightbulb

7. Minimise Waste

While this may not be a direct refurbishment, it is imperative for building and maintaining a sustainable property. Everyone working within a building should actively aim to reduce their waste. By reducing waste, this doesn’t necessarily mean stop using particular items but instead striving to reuse or recycle as much as possible. Minimising waste will help towards conserving the available space in landfill sites to reduce the need for more to be built. The more landfills that need to be made, the more air and water pollution they will create; ultimately, contributing towards global warming.

Some great ways that you can begin lowering waste include the following:

  • Go Paperless – The most effective way to reduce waste is to start transitioning towards a paperless approach. Consider everything that you print each day and eliminate those that can be available in a digital alternative.
  • Recycling Bins – For every regular bin, make sure that it is accompanied by a recycling bin. Recycling bins can be ordered from Glasdon for an affordable price.
  • Reconfigure Printers – When you do need to print documents, ensure that they are set to double-sided to reduce paper usage. You could even consider switching to draft quality.
  • Reduce Plastic Bottles – Over the past few years, there has been a significant focus on reducing the use of plastic bottles. In the workplace, ensure that you have invested in a water dispenser, plenty of cups and perhaps water bottles for employees. Together, this will stop any need for the use of plastic water bottles.

Office recycling bin

8. Draught-Proof The Building

Based on an article by Carbon Commentary, around 25% of all heat loss is caused by draughts in a building. Whether this may be down to damaged roof sheets or small gaps around doors or windows; collectively, you could find yourself wasting a considerable percentage of energy. If you notice an ongoing spike in bills each month or the building is struggling to retain heat, your first renovation should most definitely be to draught-proof each room.

There are many different ways that you can begin to draught-proof a building. The process should always start with the biggest culprit. For example, if you have damaged or cracked roof sheets, then you will need to schedule panel repairs, along with on site spraying. Windows are another common cause of heat loss. Old, traditional windows may look vintage, but are likely to lack insulation features. In this case, investing in double glazing would be highly recommended.

Once you have tackled the large-scale, costly tasks, you can move onto handy tricks to prevent any draughts from seeping through. These include jobs such as adding sealant around windows, fitting a brush strip to the bottom of doors and a draught excluder on any openings.

Building A Sustainable Future!

Regardless of the building type you live, work or operate in, striving to take an eco-friendly approach to tasks is imperative. Adopting new lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be a tricky task, and while it may take practice, you will pick up habits incredibly quickly. Our top eight ideas are just suggestions on how you can renovate to improve sustainability, and there are a whole host of additional options across the web – it all just takes a little extra research!

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