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The Sustainable Office

The Sustainable Office

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Published by Delftdigitalpress
Sustainable development is the goal of a balance between economy and the environment, whilst establishing a
better spread prosperity across the world. In order to make this possible, the environmental load of our
commodities needs to be reduced by a factor of 20. This factor 20 can also be translated to the office market. The
PhD research presented in this thesis focussed on finding solutions effectively contributing to factor 20
environmental improvement of office accommodation.
In order to determine the current environmental performance and to find the main aspects and building
components causing environmental damage, twelve offices designed without a special focus on sustainability
were environmentally assessed. This case study reveals that recently constructed offices are hardly more
sustainable than in the reference year 1990 and that, on the basis of a lifespan of 75 years, almost 80% of the
environmental load of office buildings is related to energy consumption. Heating (and cooling), lighting and use of
equipment (mainly computers) together constitute approximately 90% of energy consumption. The supporting
structure of a building causes almost 60% of the environmental load of building materials. Consumption of water
proves unimportant to the environmental performance.
The age and expected service life of a building had not yet been accounted for in environmental performance.
This thesis presents a methodology for the account of these factors of time, facilitating decisions about, for
example, renovation and re-use of an existing building versus demolition and construction of a new building. On
the basis of this methodology it can be established that with an eventual service life of the building of around 20
years - a realistic value for modern offices - the use of building materials becomes equally important as energy
consumption. Studies indicate that there are two main service life strategies that effectively improve the
environmental performance of offices: design of long-lasting monumental buildings with an over-sized structure, or
buildings with a demountable or short-cyclic supporting structure. The lifespan of components other than the
supporting structure play no significant role in environmental performance.
Theoretically, the use of sustainable energy resources can lead to more than a factor 20 environmental
improvement of energy consumption. Many technologies and solutions are known and available. The supporting
structure of a building can be improved by choosing optimal structural spans and combinations of building
materials for the structural components. A maximum difference of a factor 4.5 can be found between favourable
and unfavourable, yet common, solutions for supporting structures. Best solution found is a floor of TT slabs
spanning the entire building depth, supported by timber beams and columns. For offices this is a flexible solution
as well. Further enhancements will be possible through the use of new building materials.
As a result of different effects, the basic shape of a building does not substantially influence its environmental
performance. When comparing different building heights, however, an optimal number of stories can be found for
each net floor area required for an office organisation. In the case of large buildings, the maximum difference
between favourable and unfavourable solutions is around a factor of 1.6.
The use of space inside offices defines the size and geometry of the building. Layout principles other than the
cellular office enable substantial environmental improvement of the use of building materials. As case studies of
European redevelopments around nodes of public transport reveal, on the urban scale, intensive and multiple use
of space can lead to significant environmental improvement related to travel and the green area preserved outside
the city. In regards to average mono-functional urban plans, stacking and mixing of functions
Sustainable development is the goal of a balance between economy and the environment, whilst establishing a
better spread prosperity across the world. In order to make this possible, the environmental load of our
commodities needs to be reduced by a factor of 20. This factor 20 can also be translated to the office market. The
PhD research presented in this thesis focussed on finding solutions effectively contributing to factor 20
environmental improvement of office accommodation.
In order to determine the current environmental performance and to find the main aspects and building
components causing environmental damage, twelve offices designed without a special focus on sustainability
were environmentally assessed. This case study reveals that recently constructed offices are hardly more
sustainable than in the reference year 1990 and that, on the basis of a lifespan of 75 years, almost 80% of the
environmental load of office buildings is related to energy consumption. Heating (and cooling), lighting and use of
equipment (mainly computers) together constitute approximately 90% of energy consumption. The supporting
structure of a building causes almost 60% of the environmental load of building materials. Consumption of water
proves unimportant to the environmental performance.
The age and expected service life of a building had not yet been accounted for in environmental performance.
This thesis presents a methodology for the account of these factors of time, facilitating decisions about, for
example, renovation and re-use of an existing building versus demolition and construction of a new building. On
the basis of this methodology it can be established that with an eventual service life of the building of around 20
years - a realistic value for modern offices - the use of building materials becomes equally important as energy
consumption. Studies indicate that there are two main service life strategies that effectively improve the
environmental performance of offices: design of long-lasting monumental buildings with an over-sized structure, or
buildings with a demountable or short-cyclic supporting structure. The lifespan of components other than the
supporting structure play no significant role in environmental performance.
Theoretically, the use of sustainable energy resources can lead to more than a factor 20 environmental
improvement of energy consumption. Many technologies and solutions are known and available. The supporting
structure of a building can be improved by choosing optimal structural spans and combinations of building
materials for the structural components. A maximum difference of a factor 4.5 can be found between favourable
and unfavourable, yet common, solutions for supporting structures. Best solution found is a floor of TT slabs
spanning the entire building depth, supported by timber beams and columns. For offices this is a flexible solution
as well. Further enhancements will be possible through the use of new building materials.
As a result of different effects, the basic shape of a building does not substantially influence its environmental
performance. When comparing different building heights, however, an optimal number of stories can be found for
each net floor area required for an office organisation. In the case of large buildings, the maximum difference
between favourable and unfavourable solutions is around a factor of 1.6.
The use of space inside offices defines the size and geometry of the building. Layout principles other than the
cellular office enable substantial environmental improvement of the use of building materials. As case studies of
European redevelopments around nodes of public transport reveal, on the urban scale, intensive and multiple use
of space can lead to significant environmental improvement related to travel and the green area preserved outside
the city. In regards to average mono-functional urban plans, stacking and mixing of functions

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Published by: Delftdigitalpress on Jul 01, 2009
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08/21/2013

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Sustainable Office
an exploration of the potential for factor 20environmental improvement of office accommodation Andy van den Dobbelsteen

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