A circular approach to workplace design

How we reduced carbon emissions on a project by 48%

The construction and operation of commercial buildings uses a staggering amount of energy. The office fitout is a major contributor – it’s estimated that 20-50% of carbon emissions in commercial buildings are caused by fitouts.[1] As office fitout specialists, this is a confronting figure.

Sheldon is committed to reducing the environmental impact of our workplaces. Embracing a circular approach to office fitouts, involving reusing and repurposing existing materials, is a key avenue towards this. We put this approach to the test at 55 Clarence St, where we designed and built a full-floor speculative suite. Partnering with The Footprint Company, we were able to measure the amount of carbon emissions saved on this project.

The result is a whopping 48%.

That amount would power this suite for 4.5 years, and it’s the equivalent of planting 2400 trees over the course of a 5-year lease.

How was this achieved?

Building owners Peakstone inherited a dated but quality fitout at 55 Clarence St. Through considered design planning, we transformed the space into a modern, multi-functional office. We retained the following materials, resulting in CO2 saved:

36 workstations and 76 desk chairs: ~6,732kg CO2-e saved
Internal walls: ~101,790kg CO2-e saved
11 timber doors: ~1,740kg CO2-e saved
Nylon carpet: ~22,646 kg CO2-e saved
Plus mechanical, electrical, fire services, and other fitout equipment/fittings.

It’s cost-effective, and it looks good

Our circular design approach revealed not only the massive carbon emissions reduction, but a significant cost reduction too. This project saved $466 per sqm, in comparison to projects with a similar level of finish where materials were not reused.

The cost reduction doesn’t impact on the quality of the design. In fact, the combination of new and reused materials resulted in a rejuvenated workplace that takes advantage of a natural palette (clay, white and teal), as well as natural materials (Sheldon-manufactured timber joinery, and biophilia).

With material costs rising approximately 6% since 2022, reuse is an effective way to keep project costs from soaring. Reusing materials saves on more than just the material cost; it saves on transport, storage, installation, demolition and waste disposal.

Further ways to reduce environmental impact

This project also had an 85% waste recycling target, and used greener modes of transport for deliveries.

By designing the space to be flexible and adaptable, allowing it to be disassembled and reused in the future, 55 Clarence St works towards being a more sustainable and future proof fitout.

Planning for a sustainable future

As global and Australian regulations tighten, alongside an increasing expectation for businesses to report emissions, fitout choices have become an important consideration. This is evident with the World Green Building Council’s commitment to reduce overall embodied CO2 emissions from base build and fitout by at least 40% by 2030.

Circular thinking is an industry-wide priority, and its benefit is a more sustainable future for the design and construction industry, and everyone who uses workplaces.

[1] https://www.arup.com/perspectives/revealing-the-reality-how-do-we-measure-and-achieve-net-zero-fit-outs