How Climate Change Will Impact Our Workspaces

14 Jan 2020

Category: Educational

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Climate change is having a life-changing impact on our world, which means it will inevitably shape our workspaces.

When many of us think of climate change, we imagine environmental consequences such as high temperatures and melting glaciers; what we don’t imagine is the changes that will come to our own lives. 

Our planet is already seeing the effects of climate change. In September 2019, the UN published a report confirming sea-level rise has accelerated significantly, as CO2 emissions have hit new highs. 

But as climate change continues to make irreversible shifts in the way we live, it’s also set to cause major changes in the way we work. 

According to the UN Climate Action Summit, 59 international brands have signed up to the UN Global Pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As the world heats up around us, a number of experts say that hotter outdoor temperatures and extreme weather events will shape the conditions of our offices, schools and other buildings.

Energy-efficiency and sustainability are no longer a tick-box exercise to reduce costs. Businesses are now taking serious action on their organisational processes to ensure they’re reducing their carbon footprint. 

At Billi UK, our filtered water taps have been chosen by brands across the UK who are seeking to make their workspaces environmentally-friendly. After all, it’s no longer about corporate social responsibility; climate change is a real-world business risk. 

It’s difficult to know exactly how dramatic the effects of climate change will be. Carbon use from energy emissions are rising at the fastest rate since 2011.

How these radical world changes will affect various industries is still a matter of prediction. But there are some areas that are worth considering if you want to future-proof your workspace against climate change. 

Workspace

As carbon rises in our planet’s atmosphere, so too will carbon levels rise within our buildings. This has been predicted by Environmental Health and Human Habitation Professor, John Spengler, at Harvard University. 

In May 2018, carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million in our atmosphere. But Professor Spengler believes these CO2 levels can double in office spaces due to the presence of people breathing inside. 

A recent study by Professor John Spengler shows that higher carbon levels inside our office space can affect productivity. Researchers gave a series of tests to participants exposed to varying levels of CO2. It found that workers exposed to higher levels of carbon, 1,000 parts per million or higher, showed a decline in their ability to make decisions. 

In our current office spaces, carbon measures at around 600 to 1,200ppm. However, these numbers will significantly rise as our outside environment CO2 levels increase with climate change. 

With studies such as this revealing the impacts of global climate change on workspaces, it will be the roles of architects and designers to create spaces that can allow us to adapt to environmental challenges. 

Buildings

First, the buildings themselves will have to adapt. This has already started in areas such as London. 

In 2013, the famous Walkie-Talk skyscraper was discovered to be reflecting light off its unusual, curved surface so strongly that it melted parts of a car parked on the street nearby. The building had to be fitted with a sunscreen device to stop the intense beams of light from hitting surrounding spaces. 

The example of 20 Fenchurch Street may be a unique case, but it proves that office buildings themselves also carry the risk of changing the climate around them. Many modern office buildings have highly reflective windows. But this sunlight can affect areas around the building. The implication here is that our buildings are currently contributing to the change in climate.

Sustainable office buildings are now being built across the UK, as it’s now more of a need-to-have, than a nice-to-have. 

In 2018, we fitted our Billi filtered water taps into Bloomberg’s new London headquarters.  Many consider the office to be the world’s most sustainable office building. The impressive building achieved the highest-ever Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method score. 

Roles 

As our environment changes, our roles within an organisation will also begin to adapt. 

Roles in the renewable energy sector are already seeing a sharp rise. Careers in bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind accounted for 32% of energy-sector jobs in 2014. However, this increased to 51% in 2017. 

Corporate responsibility roles are also seeing a surge across the UK. While the average salary for a full-time UK employee is around £28,000, the average CSR professional pulls in £57,000. 

In terms of skillset changes,  we are yet to see how much climate change will affect the skills of future careers. Especially in sectors which are less directly affected by climate change. 

However, what organisations should be aware of is the growing shift in environmental consciousness in future employees. 

Millennials will make up half of the workforce in 2020. In a study by Cone Communications, it revealed that nearly two-thirds of millennials take social and environmental commitments into account when weighing up a job offer. 

Climate change is not just a CSR activity; it is now a deciding factor for gaining and retaining new talent. 

In 2019, there were more climate change protests. Much of these were catalysts from 2018 protests where an estimated 1.6 million children in 125 countries hit the streets in protest to poor action on climate change.

We are living in a world where more people are aware of climate change and expect organisations to do their part. 

Future Planning 

Planning for climate change and how it will affect our workspaces is not an easy task. The size of the challenge is phenomenal.

A core part of preparing for climate change will be incorporating climate patterns into planning projects. While this will be key for roles in engineering, construction, architecture and infrastructure, other sectors will also have to consider how climate change may impact their work and their customer’s needs. 

Seeking climate-related skills training may be the future of up-skilling, as we require more roles to understand the impact of the changing environment.

Without a doubt, transforming your organisation into a sustainable business will be the corner-stone of surviving future climate challenges. 

Large corporations around the world have begun to make serious pledges on climate change. For example, Unilever will source 100% of its energy for production from renewable sources by 2030.

Other companies working on similar environmental initiatives include Coca-Cola, Ikea and Waitrose. Each has committed to achieving 100% renewable energy.  

As climate change is a certainty for our planet, organisations must look at their workspaces and begin to plan for an inevitable future. 

Going energy-efficient and sustainable is not just merit of ethics, but business sense.