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How to run a more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable office

Save money, improve environmental performance, comply with legislation and respond to the increasing environmental demands of your customers.

Measuring resource use

Without a good understanding of use, you will be unable to manage resources in an efficient manner.

To identify opportunities for making environmental improvements, it is recommended that you conduct a review of current practice. The first step is to understand where your office use resources and why waste is produced, then decide what measurements you need to take to monitor performance and then gather this data on a regular basis.

Monitoring can be as simple as taking meter readings regularly or tracking purchasing information from invoices.

Heating and cooling

Knowing how the heating and cooling systems for your office operate lets you take advantage of any energy efficient functions that are built in.

  • When heating, reduce the temperature of a room by 1°C and you could cut the heating bill by as much as 10%.
  • Turn off heating and cooling in unoccupied rooms, but make sure they are well ventilated to prevent condensation and mould.
  • Use timers and temperature control sensors to control output. For example, an optimiser sensor fitted externally to your office building can set heating controls to warm up the office before staff arrive and shut off heating controls once the building is at the optimum temperature, avoiding overheating or the need to open windows.
  • Make sure fans, pumps and resources such as cooling towers, boilers and chillers do not operate when buildings are unoccupied, except where they are needed for pre-heating or pre-cooling.
  • Make sure windows and doors are closed when heating or air-conditioning is on.
  • If your office is being refurbished, consider installing double or triple glazed windows, and encourage cleaners to close blinds/curtains to prevent solar gain or heat loss when rooms are unoccupied
  • Check that insulation and draught-proofing is adequate to prevent heat loss.
  • When buying appliances, choose models with the highest energy efficient rating.
  • Install instant water heaters where possible, otherwise reduce the temperature of stored hot water.
  • Install heat reflectors behind radiators to improve their efficiency at a relatively low cost.
  • Ensure heaters and radiators are kept clear.
  • Check set points on wall thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).
  • Ensure boilers are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions – a well-maintained boiler can reduce heating costs by up to 10%.
  • If practicable, instead of using energy to cool your server room, install a vent in the external wall to enable heat loss.


Efficient lighting can make immediate energy savings of up to 80%.

  • When changing fluorescent tubes, use slimline versions or LED ‘tubes’.
  • Use natural light wherever possible. Keep windows clean and encourage staff to open blinds rather than turn on lights. Daylight blinds are available that redirect light to the ceiling thereby preventing glare.
  • Make sure lights can be switched off manually. Installing zone controls and daylight sensors ensures that lights are switched on only when necessary.
  • Install presence detector lighting controls in places that are not in constant use. These sensors provide savings of up to 30% on lighting costs.
  • Ensure lighting controls are clearly labelled.
  • For new installations, ensure you have several separate circuits so that lights in darker areas can be turned on independently of those in lighter areas.
  • Run a ‘Switch Off’ campaign. It is always cheaper to switch off lights, no matter how short the time period. Place stickers above light switches and use posters and emails to remind people. Free resources are available from our staff engagement toolkit.
  • Consider the whole-life cost savings of fitting energy efficient lamps. An LED lamp may cost more to buy than an incandescent lamp or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), but when the lower running costs and reduced labour costs through less frequent lamp replacement are taken into consideration, the whole-life costs of LEDs are much lower.
  • Ensure timers and sensors are in good working order and are set according to occupancy times.

Office equipment

Adopting best practice within all office equipment can make drastic savings on costs and energy.

  • Purchase equipment with the EU ENERGY STAR® standard or similar. If your computer has the ‘power save’ feature, make sure it is activated.
  • Screen savers do not save energy. Enable ‘power-down’ settings and insist that staff switch off their computer monitors when not in use, including when they are away from their desks for meetings or breaks.
  • During the refurbishment or replacement of equipment, request data on the average power consumed under typical operating conditions, and the standby and low energy consumption rates.
  • Some energy saving settings can save as little as 10% of the energy used when in use, so switch off all equipment where possible or fit a simple plug-in timer. Alternatively, fit an
    energy saving plug to PCs that automatically switch off peripherals when the PC is switched off.
  • Make sure vending machines are running at the optimum temperature and are serviced regularly. Consider installing 7-day timers on vending machines to reduce their energy consumption when offices are not occupied.

Water using equipment

Understanding how to manage all water using equipment can aid in reduced costs and energy consumption.

  • When purchasing new equipment, consider the whole-life cost and look to buy products that are water and energy efficient or ‘A’ rated. For example, modern dishwashers can use as little as 9 litres per wash cycle.
  • Try to ensure that dishwashers are full to capacity before starting a wash cycle.
    Only fill kettles with the amount of water that you need each time.
  • Check your pipes for leaks – leaks can be expensive and can also cause damage to the building. Check your meter readings regularly and carefully to monitor consumption – if you are paying for water that you cannot account for, you may have a leak.
  • Comparing actual meter readings with the readings on the bill, which may be estimated, can highlight any discrepancies and overcharges (estimated readings are indicated by an ‘E’ after the meter reading on the bill and actual readings have an ‘A’).
  • If you have a water meter, take a reading last thing at night and again first thing in the morning. This will show you how much water is being used outside of normal office hours and can highlight leaks, faulty overflows or other water losses.
  • Contact your water supplier to assist with locating leaks.

Taps and showers

  • A 5mm stream of water wastes 528,000 litres of water per year, costing £900 for cold water or a staggering £6,000 for hot water.
  • Fix dripping taps – a dripping tap will waste at least 5,500 litres of water per year.
  • Consider fitting electronic taps with infrared hand sensors or self-closing taps. These will reduce the amount of water used while improving hygiene. Ensure maintenance is carried out regularly – soap deposits and scale can cause tap mechanisms to jam, resulting in taps dripping and subsequent water loss.
  • Tap aerators and flow restrictors are low-cost solutions and can reduce water use by up to 70%.
  • As with taps, ensure shower control units are regularly maintained. Soap deposits and scale can cause blockages and reduce performance.
  • When refurbishing shower rooms consider water efficient products and make sure they are correctly installed. Consider devices such as push-button showers or isolating ball valves to reduce water use.
  • Typically, a conventional shower uses 35 litres (for a 5-minute shower). Fitting a £5 aerator to the showerhead of a shower that is used twice a day for 5 minutes, could save around £30 per year in water and sewerage costs.
  • If your office has a large canteen, fit trigger taps to reduce the volume of water used during food preparation and cleaning.

Toilet and Urinals

  • Fit 9-litre toilet cisterns with volume adjusters such as a ‘hippo’ bag or simply put a 1-litre plastic bottle filled with water in the cistern to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
  • Consider retrofitting flush devices in existing toilets. For example, a variable flush or siphon mechanism can save up to 4 litres per flush and cost as little as £20 to install.
  • Check how much water is released into the urinal when it flushes and consider whether it needs to flush after working hours. Installing passive infrared sensors can save up to 50% in water use and costs. Also, consider installing waterless urinals. These can potentially reduce urinal water use by up to 90% and provide significant cost savings.

Setting up a Green Team

Establishing a Green Team to drive initiatives forward will provide you with vital support.

Green Champions or Green Teams will be invaluable in spearheading a resource efficiency campaign and ensuring that procedures are being followed in relation to aspects such as waste segregation. When setting up a Green Team, aim to involve a cross-section of employees in the organisation who work at various levels and in various departments to act as Green Champions. Create a positive climate to help your Green Team identify opportunities and help you communicate with your stakeholders.

The Green Team should be responsible for:

  • Taking ownership of ideas suggested by management or employees.
  • Facilitating action and providing access to different skills and ideas.
  • Engaging with employees to reduce resistance to change.
  • Improving awareness and ensuring staff understand the need for change.

Free resources to help you set up a Green Team can be found here.


How do you know if the initiatives are working?

Analyse your measurement and monitor data to see if the figures are improving. You can conduct an office walk round whilst checking for the following:

  • Is equipment is still being left on?
  • Is waste being separated correctly?
  • Challenge wasteful behaviours – ask why?
  • Are there improvements in staff behaviours and resource efficiency?

Our free staff engagement planner gives you step-by-step actions for motivating staff in your office. It contains links to all the free resources in our staff engagement toolkit, including posters, stickers, staff training presentations and quizzes.

Access the staff engagement toolkit here.

Further support

For further support or information please click here.