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Green walls and solar panels

What do grasshoppers, green roofs and solar panels have to do with offices? WWF Finland’s Helka Julkunen believes that the office of the future will be much more ecological than today’s.

When arriving at work in the morning, you park your electric car in front of the building and leave the battery to charge during the day. Being the first person on your floor today, you see the energy-efficient LED lighting in the open-plan office turn on automatically as you enter the room. You choose a workstation for the morning hours in a space intended for quiet work.

The people who use the premises need support and instructions for making ecological choices.

Before lunch, you step into the washroom to wash your hands. The water is heated by solar panels installed on the roof of the building. They do not, however, take up all the space on the roof. There is plenty of room reserved for a pleasant garden with decorative and edible plants as well as a lunch café. The source of protein for today’s lunch is toasted grasshoppers, with a side of vegetable casserole flavoured with herbs grown in the roof garden.

After lunch, you return to the office for an afternoon meeting. The meeting room is quite full, but it stays comfortably cool as the heating is adjusted automatically as the body heat of the people in the room warms up the space.

All this will be reality for offices at some point in the future, says Helka Julkunen, Head of Green Office, WWF Finland.

Advances in housing solutions support ecological choices

The majority of the environmental load of offices today is caused by energy consumption, commuting and purchasing.

“In the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, office properties represent almost 50 per cent of total energy consumption. How this energy is generated matters a great deal. Solar panels and geothermal heat can provide a substantial reduction in the amount of energy consumed for heating water, for example. The need for cooling energy can be reduced by green roofs and walls, which also improve comfort and urban air quality while supporting biodiversity,” Julkunen points out.

Advances in housing solutions can lead to significant improvements in energy efficiency and energy conservation. The sensors in smart buildings are used to automate a variety of things, such as turning on lights or adjusting heating.

However, not everything can be automated: the people who use the premises need support and instructions for making ecological choices.

“Not all organisations have environmental experts, which means that companies in the property sector will play an increasingly important consultative role in matters such as their client organisations’ purchasing and property use,” Julkunen adds.

The eco-office of the future

  • Energy consumption is reduced and made more efficient by renewable energy generated on-site, green walls and roofs, and advanced housing solutions.
  • Offices are located within close proximity to public transport, and commuters also use electric cars and bicycles. The employer supports opportunities for remote work, or the use of office business centers closer to the employee’s home. The use of virtual meetings reduces the need for physical travel.
  • Purchasing is guided by responsibility: the reuse of materials is increased, furniture is manufactured from certified wood, and the lunch café promotes vegetarian food.