Video: The greening of the workplace should begin with individual behaviour

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There is an understandable temptation when we consider the ways in which we might green our buildings and organisations that we focus primarily on designed and engineered solutions. But as this blog on Greenbiz points out, we can achieve a great deal by looking at the behaviour of individuals. It is a point made in an entertaining way by my favourite TED Talk of all time, delivered by  Rory Sutherland (above). It’s fair to say that if he were to consider ways in which to change the behaviour of individuals, the printed note above the photocopier and the label on the light switch wouldn’t display enough innovative thought for him.

Buying green products should involve a closer look at the supply chain

Green chainLast year’s unrest in the Chinese factory that is a principal manufacturer of the iPhone5 shone a light into one of the usually dark corners of modern life. Namely that beneath the sleek facades of the products we buy lies the story of their production, transportation, marketing and eventual demise. Look further back than the factory and it usually starts with a hole in the ground; and, in the case of the iPhone, an open-cast rare earth mine in the Nevada desert which produces the raw materials for the cutting edge technologies that make our lives tick.

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Green issues still a core business concern for managers

Green biz

Green issues have become a core business concern amongst managers responsible for the built environment, says the chair of the Green Building Council Andrew Gould in his introduction to a series of essays which highlight the benefits of a sustainable built environment as a driver for growth. Senior executives from 15 major companies, including Atkins, Balfour Beatty and E.ON, have written the pieces which outline the business case for green buildings and infrastructure. Added Gould: “At the start of 2013, with the short-medium term economic forecast only a little improved, the sustainability agenda is actually in rude health.”

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UK central government fails to increase spending with SMEs

r_seaman@hotmail.comThe Cabinet Office has published figures for how much the UK’s central government departments spent on products and services from small and medium enterprises during the year 2011/2012. The low key announcement slipped under the radar for many people, possibly because the figures indicate that the government is very unlikely to hit its target of spending a quarter of its total expenditure with SMEs in the course of this parliament. While it’s inevitable that large areas of government spending are unsuitable for supply from smaller businesses, the Cabinet Office will be concerned that the current total of 10 per cent is way short of its expectations.

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Challenge for Ecobuild is reducing greenwash and white noise

White noiseToday is the first day of Ecobuild, which claims to be the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to sustainable construction and fit-out. Some 1,500 organisations are taking part in the event in East London which last year attracted 58,000 visitors from around the world. While undoubtedly successful, influential, with great intellectual content and a showcase for some truly innovative and effective products, the approach of Ecobuild invariably begs the question: in a world in which every supplier claims to be environmentally friendly, how are their customers expected to make the right choices?

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Google and Yahoo office strategies teach us the value of the velvet glove

Velvet gloveIt’s a week now since the whole Yahoo-ha kicked off and since that time everybody has had their say on the matter including – refreshingly – those in the mainstream media. The story has followed its own narrative arc, from the initial gasps of horror at Yahoo’s audacious challenge to a cherished piece of contemporary received wisdom (coupled with the reminder that Yahoo still exists) to something more thoughtful and circumspect as we learned more about the thinking behind the decision.What has become apparent is that Yahoo’s actions were based on a tacit understanding that people work better on certain tasks when they are together.

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Yahoo case doesn’t tell the whole story of teleworking

Yahoo! Sunnyvale headquarters.  October 28, 2001 (Y! Photo / Brian McGuiness)Yahoo! made headlines across the US and the rest of the world this week by announcing they are terminating the company’s telework program.  Does this signal, broadly, the pending demise of telework?  Here’s my take: this story is actually deeper than just about telework. Yahoo! has been wandering around aimlessly for a number of years, and it would appear that this particular measure is intended as some overdue shock therapy to jump-start a much needed culture shift and focus on what the company needs to survive in a world of rapid innovation and “big bang disruption” (see March 2013 HBR article by Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes).

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Workplace Anachronisms: No. 1 – the BCO Specification Guide

Boy Wearing Men's Dress Shoes and Suit --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThe British Council for Offices claims that it is ‘Britain’s leading forum for the discussion and debate of issues affecting the office sector. Its members are organisations involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space, whether architects, lawyers, surveyors, financial institutions or public agencies.’ If true, this makes its Specification Guide all the more remarkable for not only being wide of the mark about at least one key issue when it was published back in 2009, but about which it is growing increasingly redundant by the day.

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Building designers should pay more heed to what users need

The future for London's skyline

The future for London’s skyline

These past two weeks have seen me playing and working in what I believe is fondly referred to as “That London” by those who live and work in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whilst resisting the temptations of the capital’s fleshpots, I’ve had the time to reflect on the design of public spaces and wonder at the architectural munificence that gave us, within a single square mile or so; The Shard, The Gherkin, St Pauls Cathedral and the engineering marvel of Tower Bridge (I also had the chance to sample Japanese octopus balls, but that, as the saying goes, is another story altogether).

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Psychrometry is key to holistic energy efficiency

KS20 Psychrometry

A holistic energy efficiency strategy is needed to ensure a balance between efforts to make buildings more airtight and the need to increase ventilation. This is why an understanding of psychrometry is an increasingly important issue for the built environment. Psychrometry is used to prevent environments being created which are detrimental to health, either through too dry an atmosphere or conditions where damp and mould can flourish says the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) which has issued new guidance.

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Yahoo is not the only firm that doesn’t like flexible working

Yahoo! Sunnyvale headquarters.  October 28, 2001 (Y! Photo / Brian McGuiness)As news emerged over the weekend from Silicon Valley that Yahoo had introduced a new policy that insisted employees work from the company’s HQ, a survey from O2 in the UK highlighted just how many firms are not as keen on the practice of flexible working as they might claim in theory. The question we need to ask is whether this represents a genuine shift away from the assumption that we are moving towards more agile working practices, or is this just the last knockings of the old guard?

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What gets measured in the workplace, gets managed

MeasureAre we finally seeing the first signs of the end of the downturn?  Earlier this week the Government announced that UK unemployment had fallen. While I know there have been quibbles about what this all meant, other data from specific market sectors backs up the idea that we may be seeing some tentative causes for hope.  One of the most heartening was last week’s survey from Randstad which reported growing levels of optimism among financial services firms about their prospects and the fact that the majority would be increasing headcount this year.

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