Occupiers are demanding best-in-class sustainability credentials from their buildings. But they unknowingly risk rendering those credentials redundant through their fit-out.

Leanne Wookey

Leanne Wookey

Sustainability is now top of the agenda for many businesses, driven by a growing expectation from their customers to respond to the effects of climate change. As they look to reduce their carbon footprint, there is vast data showing the increasing demand for green office space.

Standardised sustainability accreditations such as BREEAM and LEED are essential for developers to secure top tenants. But not all occupiers are aware of what they need to consider when they fit

out their space to avoid good work being undone.

There is nothing stopping an occupier taking space in a building with super-green credentials and completing their own fit-out that is not considerate of that sustainable approach – despite their good intentions. Or worse, they might strip out materials that the developer has installed to market the space – a wasteful practice that was recently flagged by the British Council for Offices (BCO). The BCO’s Circular Economy in Offices report highlighted the need to reduce waste in the office sector, as well as opportunities for reuse of materials.

Reuse is fast becoming a more popular approach when it comes to the building itself, as Property Week highlighted in its article ‘Developers ditch wrecking ball in favour of retrofitting’ (p39, 27.01.23). We need to make sure that carries through to how the space is fitted out.

Educating occupiers is critical to bring them on the journey. If we want them to maintain the standards and align with the accreditation achieved, then design teams, agents, developers and landlords all have a role to play. We all need to work closely with end users to ensure they have a greater understanding of the possible impacts of their fit-out choices.

Design teams and developers can and should create workplaces that challenge the existing boundaries to be as sustainable and socially responsible as possible – from the foundations and building structure to the interior layout and finishes. But if we are to meet the climate crisis challenge, we need to be bolder when talking to occupiers about their role.

Leanne Wookey is interiors director at tp bennett