Sustainable Workplace Design and Environmental Impact

One of our driving passions at Sketch Studios is creating a more sustainable world through intelligent and innovative workplace design. Read on for a round-up of all the key statistics about sustainable workplaces and their environmental impact.

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Fritha Selwyn Jones

Written by

Fritha Selwyn Jones


One of our driving passions at Sketch Studios is creating a more sustainable world through intelligent and innovative workplace design. Our power and that of our clients for positive change is so big we have to seize it. From the start, our approach has been one of making sustainable building and design choices because we know these choices, no matter how small, all contribute to a healthier environment, happier communities, and a brighter future for everyone.

The facts don’t lie when it comes to sustainable office design. Read on for a round-up of all the key statistics about sustainable workplaces and their environmental impact.

Workplace Design and Energy Consumption Reduction

Energy usage looks different depending on the size and nature of a business. Businesses like hotels, labs, and manufacturing plants use more energy for heating, lighting, water usage, and powering equipment or machinery. A report by Bionic on average business energy consumption lists the annual average usage depending on business type and size.


Combined Annual Usage (MWh)

Commercial and Miscellaneous Services


Public Administration


Manufacturing and Industrial Services


Chemical Manufacturing


Food, Drink, and Tobacco Manufacturing


Mineral Products Manufacturing


Printing and Publishing




Mechanical Engineering


Iron, Steel, and Metal Manufacturing


Business Size

Average Annual Gas Usage (kWh)

Average Annual Electricity Usage (kWh)


5,000 - 15,000

5,000 - 15,000

Small Business

15,000 - 30,000

15,000 - 25,000

Medium-Sized Business

30,000 - 65,000

25,000 - 50,000

Large Business

More than 65,000

More than 50,000

Energy consumption can be reduced through sustainable design practices. There are many benefits to sustainable design that go beyond simply doing the right thing for the environment.

For example, green building certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) motivate businesses to attain a certain level of sustainability. A LEED certification is an internationally recognised badge of sustainability achievement. With this certification, a business can take advantage of tax incentives that encourage green policies, save running costs, enhance property value, achieve ESG objectives, and give its brand a competitive advantage.

LEED buildings use less water and energy, favouring renewables. They use fewer resources and create less waste. According to the official LEED website, buildings with its certification:

  • Contribute 50% fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to water consumption, 48% fewer GHGs due to solid waste, and 5% fewer GHGs due to transport than non-LEED buildings

  • Product 34% lower carbon emissions

  • Consume 25% less energy and 11% less water

  • Contribute to 78 million tonnes of carbon emissions avoided

  • Have an average 89/100 ENERGY STAR score

  • Contribute to 1.3 million tonnes of coal saved annually

  • Contribute to 80 million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill

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Green Building Practices in New Workplaces

Environmental, social, and governance commitments rightfully sit at the top of the priority list for so many businesses and investors. One of the most significant ways we can make a positive impact on ESG is through the passive power of a truly sustainable workplace, made with green building practices, to attain green building certifications.

Savills conducted research into the demand for certified green office spaces, analysing the distribution of LEED, BREEAM, and WELL-certified office spaces as well as green-certified space as a share in total stock for cities across the globe.

The US came out on top as having the most cities with the highest percentage of green-certified space. See the full distribution in the table below, where cities in bold represent the number of green-certified buildings, and the rest represent percentage shares in total office stock.

Green Certification Level


More than 40%

Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Warsaw

20% to 40%

Bangalore, Sacramento, Bucharest, San Antonio, Budapest, São Paulo, Charlotte, Seattle, Denver, Singapore, Frankfurt, Tampa, Madrid, Washington, Minneapolis

Less than 20%

Atlanta, Milan, Austin, Mumbai, Barcelona, Nashville, Beijing, Oakland, Boston, Oslo, Dallas, Paris, Dubai, Philadelphia, Dublin, San Diego, Guangzhou, San Jose, Hong Kong, Seoul, London, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Shenzhen, Miami, Stockholm

In this analysis, the top 20 cities averaged 28% green-certified total stock, meaning that 70% would need to be retrofitted. Given the current demands for green-certified buildings in the investment market, this will be driven by investors as well as occupiers.

Sarah Dreyer, Senior Vice President, Head of Americas Research, Savills pointed out that companies are trying to encourage employees to use office space more often after the changes that came during the lockdown, and sustainability is one of these drivers.

Sustainable Design and Employee Wellbeing

The World Green Building Council’s report on Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices presented eight key design elements for a more sustainable workplace that supports employee wellbeing in this diagram.

WGBC greener office design features

Image source:

Following this guidance produces workplaces that are healthier and more sensorily enjoyable. The move towards sustainability in society at large has had an enormous impact on how individuals perceive the places they work, their choices in where they work, and their contentment in their workplaces.

The Design of the Workplace Report published by Foster + Partners and Brookfield Properties looked into employees’ perceptions and opinions about sustainability in the workplace. The report found that:

  • 90% of office workers believe a sustainable workplace is good for their own wellbeing and the planet.

  • 81% believe their company should be run in a climate-conscious and sustainable way.

  • 35% of 18–20-year-olds would consider leaving if their employer didn’t demonstrate a commitment to sustainable initiatives.

  • 81% of 18–29 year olds say that sustainable running of the company they work for is a high priority.

  • 24% feel their mental and physical health is impaired by a workplace that is not environmentally friendly.

  • 93% feel happier working in an environmentally friendly office.

  • 92% feel more job security in offices that prioritise environmental initiatives.

  • 93% of those working in environmentally friendly workplaces agreed that they were happy with their job.

When asked what their ‘must haves’ to stay in a job were, 34% listed a sustainable workplace, 27% listed clear policies on environmental commitments, and 27% listed genuine commitment to attaining new zero carbon emissions.

Respondents to a survey in the report from environmentally friendly and environmentally unfriendly workplaces were asked about their views on how their employers engaged with their needs. The results showed that those in environmentally friendly workplaces felt more heard and supported by their employers.


Environmentally Friendly

Environmentally Unfriendly

Does the company give attention to staff training?



Does the company promote diversity and inclusion?



Does the company listen to and respond to the needs of staff?



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Flexible Working and Sustainability

Flexible workspaces are thought to be more environmentally sustainable, according to 53% of employees. It’s true that new, flexible work models that arose out of the pandemic have paved the way for greater sustainability in workplace design.

A study on operational energy consumption in the post-pandemic era looked into how the evolving needs of the workplace would change energy usage following the end of Covid-19 restrictions.

The study found that workers and employers were redefining their work habits with more dynamic work patterns. The future office would be seen as a space primarily for community building, social interaction, and knowledge exchange. The adoption of flexible hybrid working models was expected to see a drop in energy consumption of up to 50% of that of pre-pandemic levels. These new ways of working would not only reduce energy consumption but, by proxy, improve ventilation and space usage and fulfil the diverse needs of all team members.

Coworking spaces have also been on the rise since the pandemic, thanks to higher demand from both workers and employers. Coworking spaces use 25% less power than traditional workspaces on average, and on average, coworking spaces produce up to 50% less greenhouse gas emissions. Of all coworking spaces, 62% implement initiatives like recycling to help strive for sustainability goals.

Flexible workspaces also contribute to better sustainability by embracing technological, paperless approaches to work. 70% enable access via apps and digital cards, 57% use apps to book spaces and connect with members, and 23% provide digital mailboxes.

Is your workplace changing shape? Do you have sustainability goals that need to be fulfilled? Intelligence and creative workplace design can give you a foundation on which to reach sustainability achievements like net zero carbon emissions. Talk to Sketch Studios today to find out how we can help.

Published on

November 28, 2023