This was the message of Laura Conaway, sustainability manager for Morgan Lovell, a company specialising in office design and fit out, when she spoke at Ecobuild this week.

“Sustainability legislation is chasing business both in the UK and EU but the financial situation means we’re under a heavy strain and every penny counts,” she said.

“Very few of us can afford to build a wonderful new whiz-bang green building. Financially, for the environment and for our quality of life we have to get to grips with the sustainable refurbishment of our buildings.”

Pressure from clients and customers is also a driver, she claimed, with companies now expected to do more to reduce their environmental impact.

“It’s going to become increasingly unacceptable to ignore the sustainability agenda,” said Ms Conaway.

She said the secret to successful refurbishment was to start early – making up-front investment in the major areas of expenditure means companies can start making savings from energy and water efficiency sooner.

“We need to have a forward-thinking leap of faith to consider the medium to long-term financial benefit it can give us,” she said.

“The earlier you get involved the more effective it can be and right decisions early on save money.”

It is also important to follow up on investment in efficient equipment and systems, she argued – the advantages will not be maximise unless improvements are monitored properly.

“To use the old adage, you cannot manage what you do not measure,” she said.

“Sustainable refurbishment must be linked to sustainable building management.”

Morgan Lovell is practicing what it preaches, she added, and had carried out an extensive sustainable refurbishment of its own offices.

“I know this works because we’ve gone through it,” she said.

“The up-front costs were about 10% more…but we’ve seen 30% energy saving over the past 18 months.”

As well as protecting the company’s bottom line it also had the additional benefit of providing an increase in business with green clients.

“The case for green refurbishment is that we haven’t got a choice,” she said.

“We have to deal with the buildings we’ve got and this is a good place to start.”

Sam Bond

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