How environmentally friendly is your office? No matter how great you are at recycling, your workspace is probably nowhere near the Geelen Counterflow head office in the Netherlands, which has just been awarded a 99.94 percent ranking by the industry-standard BREEAM certification scheme. That's the highest rating for an office building ever, making it the most sustainable in the world.
So what makes it so special? Timber panels and solar power for a start, plus top-notch air quality inside for office workers to enjoy all day. There are even 'living walls' inside the building, packed with natural plants and flowers, to further boost the building's environmentally friendly credentials.
The BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) scheme is designed to recognise and reward sustainable planning and construction, and since it was introduced in 1990, some 250,000 buildings have been assessed.
Essentially, BREEAM was set up to raise awareness of environmental impact at all stages of the building process, from drawing up the initial designs to inhabiting the space.
A whole host of categories are included in a BREEAM assessment, including building management, energy use, the health and wellbeing of the staff, transport links, water use, the materials involved in construction, waste production and management, land use and ecology, and any pollution produced by the building itself or the process of putting it together.
With so many variables in play, scoring 99.94 percent is no mean feat.
As Gizmodo reports, thanks to the solar energy system integrated into the office space, it generates 50 percent more power than it needs - power that's piped away to the company's factory for laser cutting stainless steel and recharging its electric forklift trucks.
Much of the building materials have been 'cradle to cradle' certified, which means they can be recycled at no cost to the environment.
Wood is considered to have the lowest CO2 footprint of any construction material, while employee wellbeing has been taken into account through the careful management of daylight infiltration, air quality, and indoor lighting. Fifty people work in the actual office itself, and all that natural light and greenery up and down the walls would make it a pretty acceptable place to spend your 9 to 5s.
The development also includes a natural garden featuring local plants and flowers, EcoBuilding Pulse reports, which is used by office staff to relax and socialise (don't forget that employee wellbeing score). There are plans for nesting sites for birds and amphibians inside the botanical area too.
According to managing director Sander Geelen, Geelen Counterflow is committed to making the most eco-friendly dryers and coolers possible, and wanted to carry over that philosophy into its office buildings too. "This office is another step on our journey to phase out fossil fuels," he said. "The next step is to develop a new generation of dryers that will use renewable energy only."
As Lloyd Alter at TreeHugger points out, BREEAM is just one yardstick that can be used when measuring sustainability, and there are other buildings that can reasonably claim the same title as the Geelen Counterflow headquarters.
We're jealous of anyone who gets to work in an office as environmentally friendly as this one. *Emails boss about getting an office lizard*