Published on September 17th, 2013 | by Ellen R Delisio0
Getting green at the office
How can companies do their shares of contributing to a more sustainable development? Transforming the office into a clean and green workplace is one way of getting there.
In the woods of Helsingborg, Sweden, is a new building designed to have as little impact on the environment as the trees and grass that surround it. Swedish construction firm Skanska has created the greenest office space in the country called Väla Gård. The almost 1,800-square-meter complex is Sweden’s first “deep green” building, in part by achieving net zero energy, and by being constructed without any hazardous materials and without disposing of any waste in landfills.
“We have a target of being the leading green contractor and developer,” said Freddie Bergkvist, Skanska’s business developer. “This is one step in that direction. We had high expectations – we were aiming to reach deep green for this project – and it looks like we will make it.”
Saving energy and money
Among the innovations in Väla Gård are the ability to annually deliver more energy than the building uses through energy efficiency and by generating its own electricity. The building is equipped with a photovoltaic (PV) solar system and a ground-source heat pump, to provide efficient heating and cooling. The solar panels were manufactured in Sweden for use in Sweden – designed to work with less sunlight.The office also uses approximately one-third less water than most Swedish office buildings.
Skanska has calculated that the new building will save the company about 2 million kronor annually in costs related to office space such as rent, cleaning, ventilation and energy. The building’s design, lighting and ventilation systems also are expected to increase worker productivity and reduce absenteeism. Employees moved into the building in October.
“The biggest issue is that there are so many questions that are new – like how to sell energy,” said Bergkvist. “It takes a lot of trying to get a first project out and then be able to duplicate it in other environments. It’s been a lot of effort, but it has been very rewarding – it’s a learning process.”
Getting advice from WWF
For existing companies that want to become greener, the World Wildlife Federation’s (WWF) Green Office service provides resources and checklists for businesses and organizations in Finland to follow and assists with assessments. About 200 organizations have signed up for the service.
“We have three aims; to slow down climate change, save natural resources and promote sustainable lifestyles,” said Dr. Helka Julkunen, head of the WWF’s Green Office program. “Organizations need, for example, to look for ways to use less electricity and less energy for heating, and less energy for travel, especially flight.”
One Green Office service client, Castrén & Snellman Attorneys Ltd in Helsinki, decided that when the company moved to a new office in 2009, it was a good time to adopt greener practices. It was the first law firm in Finland to meet the requirements of the WWF’s Green Office environmental program.
Firm members have cut back on use of electricity and almost all of the office waste is recycled or used to produce energy. Printing also has been reduced.
“We got many good ideas from the Green Office service and inspiration to do it better,” said Sirpa Uuspelto, the firm’s communications coordinator. “The Green Office program makes it official and you have to keep up with the office’s energy and paper consumption targets. The WWF Green office unites the office to keep up with the green work.”