Savills: working in the office is more energy efficient in winter

Working in the office in winter is better for the environment than working from home, according to new research by Savills, while in the summer it’s more sustainable to work from home.

Mike Barnes, Associate Director, European Research Team, Savills

The new analysis reveals that for European office workers who commute by public transport, over the course of a whole year, it is generally more energy efficient to travel into the office than to work from home despite there being a lot of variables at play, such as domestic energy efficiency, commute distance and type of transport.

“While there are many debates around returning to the office in terms of well-being, corporate culture and productivity, the environmental impact will be increasingly important given that many occupiers are beginning to consider ‘scope 3’ carbon emissions generated by employee commutes”, said Mike Barnes, Associate Director, European Research Team, Savills.

The Savills analysis shows there is a big swing in energy efficiency between winter and summer. In the winter, instead of hearing thousands of homes individually during the day, it is more energy efficient to be in the office, unless a long car commute is involved.

For those who commute by car, it is more energy efficient to work from home if the journey is over 6 km each way, but to travel to the office if the trip is under that threshold.

However during the summer, when household heating is not required, it is more sustainable to work from home whatever the method of transport used.

There are a lot of variables at play and the results will depend on the type and efficiency of the home and of the vehicle used as well as the distance travelled.

Source: Savills Research, IEA, BEIS

The important question is that “hybrid working has changed the way we think about the office”, said Dan Jestico, Director, Savills Earth. “We’re now drawn back by the desire to collaborate and to inhabit inspiring buildings, so offices with sustainable design features that promote health and wellbeing are more attractive to tenants”.

The rising cost of heating homes will also become an increasingly important factor in the coming winter months.

Savills predicts that multinational companies will need to develop the systems and capabilities to calculate their global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission accurately, including reporting on employee commuting emissions.

“However very few companies currently take account of this when undertaking site selection, despite new data analysis technology making this much easier”, said Matthew Fitzgerald, Director, Savills Cross Border Tenant Advisory EMEA. “In terms of impact on the office market, this may increase the demand for buildings in close proximity to large public transport hubs across larger cities, as occupiers seek to reduce their net carbon impact and encourage workers to commute using more sustainable means”.