Glass-fronted office building surrounded by trees

What Makes a Truly Sustainable Workspace?

As environmental responsibility becomes ever more critical, businesses in all industries are looking for ways to operate more sustainably. One area in their immediate control is the office they choose.

Opting for an office that’s sustainable is not just about being practical; it also shows a company’s commitment to doing business responsibly. But with so many aspects to consider, finding a genuinely sustainable workspace can be tricky. 

To simplify the process, this article will help you understand what to look for when assessing how committed an office is to sustainability—from its building practices to accreditations. 

The benefits of a sustainable workspace

The importance of prioritising sustainability in the workplace can’t be overstated. Globally, the building sector accounts for 36% of energy usage and nearly 40% of CO2 emissions. By opting for a sustainable office, businesses can do their part in reducing this impact.

But that’s not all there is to gain. There are also clear financial advantages. For example, sustainable offices typically consume less energy—leading to considerable cost savings. This is the case even if you choose a serviced office space where all bills are included. The reduced costs of operating sustainably can help workspaces keep membership fees down.

Adopting eco-friendly practices can also go a long way in enhancing a company’s reputation. This positive image can, in turn, help attract and retain top talent and improve client relationships. 

A number of studies shed light on the benefits for employees and their employers. For instance, the World Green Building Council reports that green offices can increase productivity by up to 11% and reduce employee absenteeism.

Meanwhile, a Harvard study showed that employees working in green-certified buildings also showed improved cognitive ability. This improvement translated to better decision-making and problem-solving skills. 

In short, embracing sustainability not only supports environmental goals but also improves business efficiency and employee well-being.

Elements to look out for in a sustainable office

When looking for a more sustainable office, there are a number of factors that can give useful insight into how eco-friendly a workspace actually is.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is a key indicator of a building’s sustainability. Two of the main areas to consider are its choice of heating and lighting systems. 

Below, you’ll find a few specific examples of things to look out for. If you’re opting for a serviced office space (like Uncommon) where the building’s operations are handled on behalf of members, it’s worth asking their team what measures they have in place.


Heating can contribute a significant proportion of a building’s energy costs, often up to 40%. As such, there are multiple benefits to ensuring it’s as efficient as possible. 

Here are a few things to look for when it comes to evaluating the heat efficiency of an office space:

  • Insulation and draught prevention: Good insulation and sealing off draughts help reduce the need for heating.
  • Natural ventilation: Using natural ventilation instead of relying on air conditioning can save energy whilst also improving air quality.
  • Smart heating controls: Using sensors and tech to automatically regulate temperature will optimise energy efficiency. 
  • Considered office layouts: For example, ensuring that radiators are free from obstructions and are not located too far from desks will ensure energy is being used effectively. 


Lighting is another key factor to bear in mind. Building regulations set guidelines for maintaining adequate light levels, but some options are more efficient than others. 

Here are some of the more energy-efficient lighting options to look out for in an office space:

  • Zonal lighting with individual controls: This allows for targeted lighting where needed, avoiding unnecessary energy usage in empty areas.
  • Task lighting in specific areas: Installing task lighting in places like phone booths lets you control when lights are on or off, saving energy.
  • PIR Sensors: These sensors adjust lighting based on the presence of people, avoiding empty rooms being lit when they don’t need to be. 
  • LED Lighting: LEDs last longer and use less energy compared to other types of bulbs.

Optimising layouts to allow for as much natural light as possible, like we do at Uncommon, is the best option.

Using natural light instead of artificial lighting not only saves energy but also offers many health benefits to employees, such as better sleep quality and increased Vitamin D.

Sustainable construction materials

The materials used in the construction of an office also have a direct impact on its sustainability. 

Various products and materials come with different sustainability certifications, and seeing that a workspace provider has chosen to prioritise those that score highly gives useful insight into their sustainability agenda. 

FSC and PEFC certifications, for instance, are commonly associated with timber. The FSC certification indicates that the wood comes from responsibly managed forests. 

Another way offices can improve their sustainability is to source their materials locally. This is because less energy is needed for transportation, reducing the office’s carbon footprint.

At Uncommon, we’ve been assessing aspects of our operations, such as resource use and waste generation. We’re also working on criteria to source more sustainable products across our business operations.

Sustainable interior fit-out

It follows that the materials used inside an office also have an impact on its sustainability. This includes things like furniture, flooring, and fabrics.

Once again, using local suppliers for these materials is a practical way to make an office more sustainable. It reduces the need for long-distance transport whilst also supporting the local economy. 

Local suppliers may also understand local conditions better, meaning they can provide materials that are more suitable for the environment.

Choosing fabrics made from recycled materials is another way to be more sustainable. Fabrics like hemp, silk, and flax come from plant stems and offer a renewable option for office spaces. They are also fire-retardant, meeting safety needs. 

Using fabrics made from recycled marine plastics also helps reduce waste and supports a cleaner environment without sacrificing durability or functionality.

Biophilic elements

Biophilic design aims to bring natural elements into the built environment to benefit both people and the environment. In simple terms, it means using things like natural light, plants, and materials such as wood and stone in the office.

These natural features have been shown to help reduce stress and improve mood among employees. But they also offer practical benefits for sustainable workspaces. 

For example, using natural light and materials can reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating, helping to lower energy use and the office’s carbon footprint. This is one of the key elements of our biophilic design at Uncommon.

Having plants and natural elements can also improve indoor air quality, making for a healthier workspace and reducing the need for additional tools and hardware.

Environmentally friendly practices

Beyond materials and design, the everyday practices that a workspace encourages in an office form a large part of its day-to-day sustainability. 

Simple steps like making recycling easy for tenants and offering reusable dishes and utensils make a difference. 

Using eco-friendly cleaning products and putting up signs to remind people to turn off lights are other practical ways to encourage sustainability.

Having enough space for bike storage also encourages employees to choose a greener way to travel, reducing emissions and costs.

Accreditations to look for

Finding out how environmentally friendly an office is can be tricky. However, certain third-party accreditations make it easier to judge. 

These include BREEAM and SKA ratings. These certifications involve a standard assessment based on recognised sustainability criteria. 

When a workspace holds these accreditations, businesses can trust that it meets established and objective standards set by a respected third party. 

Uncommon’s sustainability credentials & ESG report

At Uncommon, we take sustainability seriously. That’s why we introduced an ESG strategy in mid-2022. This strategy outlines our plans for the next five years, covering areas including our climate, sustainability, suppliers, our people, and our members. 

You can read it all in detail at the link above. But here are the highlights of what we’ve done already and what’s on the cards for the months and years to come. 

Improving our climate impact

Uncommon is already a carbon-neutral business. Our aim now is to be carbon-negative, removing more emissions than we have generated from the very beginning. 

We’re pleased to have already made significant progress on this front. We’ve reduced our Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 25.36% and have achieved PAS 2060 carbon neutrality for the period between 2016 and 2021. Another major win is that all the electricity we use comes from renewable sources. 

Looking ahead, our strategy is on track to reach net zero by 2027.

Working in more sustainable buildings

At Uncommon, our buildings play a central role in our operations. Our target is clear: we aim to achieve an EPC rating of B or above for all our buildings by 2027. 

We also plan to provide carbon-neutral desks across all of our locations to ensure that we’re offering environmentally conscious options to our members. 

Alongside this, we’re in the process of developing criteria to source more sustainable and circular products throughout our business and plan to unveil this strategy in the near future.

Collaborating with ethical suppliers

At Uncommon, our relationship with suppliers is integral to our sustainability goals. To formalise this commitment, we’ve established a comprehensive supplier code of conduct. 

Through a series of workshops and assessments, we aim to ensure that all our suppliers adhere to this code by the year 2025.

Promoting diversity, opportunities and the well-being of our people

While not directly tied to sustainability, fostering an inclusive and supportive workplace culture is a key priority for us at Uncommon. 

To achieve this, we have committed to implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) training for all team members. 

We also plan to provide employees with access to tailored programmes aimed at supporting their mental, physical, and financial well-being.

Supporting our members to create a positive impact

Assisting other businesses in advancing their sustainability efforts is a key aspect of our ESG strategy at Uncommon. 

As part of this commitment, we actively engage with our members on climate action initiatives. We aim to provide comprehensive guidance, knowledge, and tools to support them in developing and implementing their own ESG strategies.

Check out our sustainability report for a more in-depth view of Uncommon’s ESG strategy and our progress so far. 

Sustainable offices in Central London

If you’re looking for an office space that puts sustainability front and centre in everything it does, book a tour at one of our London locations: Liverpool Street, Borough, Highbury & Islington, Fulham, and Holborn (opening in 2024).