Sustainability is one of the hottest trends for the workplace in 2022, as an increasing number of companies take  measures to be “greener,” and employees pressure business leaders to create “environmentally conscious cultures.”

The move toward a more sustainable workplace has been greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  As workers return to the office, companies have to make conscious choices about reducing their carbon footprint, controlling office costs and incorporating sustainability into their recruitment strategies.

“Sustainability is one of our core values and a foundational consideration for any operational or investment decision we make,” said Sheldon Oppermann, Compass Properties Executive Vice President. “As one small example, we recently retrofitted all the restrooms in CityCenter735 with Kimberly Clark’s Onvation System. Now we can remotely monitor paper products and soap dispensers to save paper, reduce waste and eliminate the chance that a restroom user is going to be unhappy.”

Opperman pointed out that CityCenter735 is Energy Star rated and LEED Certified. “We believe our sustainable practices contribute to the environmental health and quality of life for our tenants and the communities where we do business,” he said.

Throughout the commercial real estate industry, sustainable new construction and sustainable retrofits of older buildings are becoming more common.  For new construction and retrofits of existing office buildings, the hottest new thing in sustainable building is wood.  The attention is focused on “mass timber,” a term that includes glue-laminated beams, laminated veneer lumber, nail-laminated timber (NLT), and cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Compass Properties President Tyler Noel said the company is currently looking at several projects in Madison and Milwaukee that will be built from mass timber.  “It’s a much healthier material for our tenants, while providing exceptional, aesthetic appeal,”  he said. “It is also more cost-effective and less energy intensive than buildings with steel and concrete.”

Sustainable practices are becoming more critical in today’s business operations as well, and there are any number of ways that companies and employees can contribute to sustainability goals daily.  It’s not just good for business, it’s a great way for a company to demonstrate its commitment to the environment.  A couple examples include:

  • Replace disposable utensils and products with reusable products as much as possible
  • Use Green Cleaning Products that not only protect the health of your cleaning staff, but also your employees, by eliminating harmful substances and odors.
  • Eliminate paper waste, by reduces printing, digitalizing as much as you can, and use environmentally friendly paper.

Making the office “greener” is a trend that is catching on in buildings throughout America. Many companies today are providing accessible green spaces (small gardens, pet friendly zones, etc.) featuring all manners of plants.  Scientific research has shown the color green helps create an environment of peace, relaxing the mind, reducing stress and helps staff to maintain concentration for longer.

Another trend that impacts sustainability and productivity is “daylighting,” –maximizing the amount of natural light.  Numerous studies have shown that natural light in office spaces improves worker satisfaction and productivity. Since natural light reduces the need for artificial lighting during daytime hours, it can also lower energy costs and send a positive message to environmentally conscious workers. More buildings today are replacing traditional walls with glass walls and using full-spanning windows on the building’s south-facing side to maximize sunlight throughout the day.

“Most of our tenants want to be more eco-friendly, and sustainability is an essential part of their recruiting efforts,” Oppermann said.  “These initiatives can also improve employees’ health and satisfaction, while attracting customers looking to do business with like-minded companies.”