Caunton Workplace Design Ph2 17

How to design an office for the climate emergency

World leaders have come together over the last two weeks at COP26 to discuss the climate emergency. In this blog post, we look at how smart design can help offices to adapt to deal with the effects of climate change.

Wait a minute, what’s COP26?

COP26 is the United Nations’ annual climate change conference. It brings together more than 190 world leaders to accelerate action to tackle climate change. The conference runs until 12 November and we’ve already seen progress being made. But sadly ‘fixing’ climate change will take many years and leaders warn that we’ll all have to adapt to live with its effects.

What are the effects of climate change?

The effects of climate change are not going to go away overnight. That means we’ll see an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and flooding.

Now, we know that in the UK office workers spend most of their time trying to keep the heat in. But even here, temperatures are rising. In fact, 2020 was one of the hottest summers on record. With staff starting to return to of the office following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we look at how we can use office design to safeguard our employees and provide a comfortable and productive working environment.

Comfortable office design

How do we design for the climate emergency?

Start simple

Designing your office for the climate emergency doesn’t have to be complex. Just a few simple changes can help to lower temperatures:

  • Remove heat from inside the building by turning off unnecessary lights and equipment. It’s amazing how much heat an errant device left on overnight can kick out. Turn equipment off at the plug socket or unplug altogether.
  • Turn off the air con and open windows to let in fresh air. Air conditioning units actually contribute to the climate emergency as they guzzle energy. So why not swap to a good old open window instead? Fresh air also has lots of added health benefits and increases productivity. Win win.

Be flexible

To adapt to climate change, we’re all going to need to be flexible – and that extends to office policies and protocols too:

  • Flexible working is already on the rise because of COVID-19, so now is a great time to review your flexible working policies with the climate emergency in mind.  Some companies, including the National Trust, are already offering Mediterranean working hours, with time off during the warmest bits of the day when temperatures exceed a certain point.
  • Some offices have a strict no shorts policy but now might be the time for a rethink. As it gets hotter, consider relaxing dress codes if you’re able to. Your teams will really thank you for it! 
Energy saving lighting


If you’re able to make bigger changes to your office, there are extra steps you can take to retrofit your space for climate change:

  • A great place to start in making your office cooler is to upgrade your lighting. Switching to high-efficiency LED lighting will reduce the heat output more than you might think.
  • Opening up portions of your building to the outdoors – above and beyond opening a window – can be an absolute lifesaver when the weather is hot. Or go one step further and create an area for outdoor working if you have the space.
  • Review the equipment and appliances you have and consider an upgrade. The more modern your technology the less heat it will generate.

Go green

If you can’t reduce your emissions any further, think about ways you can capture carbon and reduce heat:

  • Bring the outside in. Use biophilic design, particularly plants and other greenery, to absorb carbon and keep temperatures manageable. There are lots of health and wellbeing benefits that come from reconnecting with nature too.
  • If you do have an outdoor space, use trees or other large plants to capture carbon and create shaded areas. You could also install a green roof – great for absorbing heat and beautiful to look at too!
Biophilic design

The most important thing to remember when designing your office for the climate emergency is to start somewhere. If retrofitting your office isn’t an option, don’t worry. Small changes can still really help. If you’d like to adapt your office for climate change – or feel inspired to reduce its carbon footprint – get in touch to see how we can help.

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