Making open plan offices work – insulation, the critical ingredient
Open spaces have been a growing trend since 1990. But they are not always the most suitable option depending on where you are in the world. The sustainability, comfort and profitability of a business space or open space home will depend on insulation, climate and location.
A study back in 2014 found that nearly 70% of offices in the US were designed to be open plan. The trend for more open, shared workspaces has been the norm since the 1990s; a recent high profile example would be Facebook’s new Frank Gehry-designed headquarters with its campus-inspired space holding 2,800 engineers in a single room! Facebook, Etsy, Google, Apple… pretty much any modern, trend-hungry business favors the open plan office - a single main space that can be divided into separate areas for different uses.
The much-stated benefits of the open plan concept include the flexibility to change the space to the needs of the occupants, allowing interior designers a great deal of freedom. The open plan approach is touted with promises of natural light and better air circulation, and improved communication and interaction between employees.
However, some recent studies have suggested drawbacks to the open office, with employees saying that it actually decreases productivity, is associated with high levels of noise and stress, and brings additional costs due to energy inefficiency, primarily due to poor lighting schemes and incorrect insulation affecting the use of HVAC systems to keep the space warm or cool.
All the same, many still argue that open-plan offices bring a level of togetherness, proximity, and teamwork to a company which increases employee engagement and collaboration between departments. Homeowners in America and Europe are also increasingly keen on open floor living.
Home or business, the sustainability and cost effectiveness of an open floor layout always depends on location, climate and insulation.
As you might imagine, keeping a large open space at the right temperature can be a challenging and potentially very expensive task, especially if it isn’t properly insulated. Some even argue that properly insulating buildings are a more effective means of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations than planting trees!
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Open floor plans make total sense in temperate, sunny climates such as the Mediterranean or, to name a specific example, Atenas in Costa Rica, where the minimum of insulation can guarantee a stable indoor temperature throughout the year. Looking beyond Costa Rica and the whitewashed edifices of the Mediterranean coastline, insulation has a great deal to offer in terms of energy efficiency and modern acoustic challenges.
Insulation is an ancient best practice we have inherited from the times of our Egyptian forebears who created thick bricks made of mud which together could block the desert heat during the day and retain its warmth after sunset when the desert temperatures dropped considerably. Another best practice comes from the Greeks; they were the first to use cavities and air pockets in walls to provide better insulation. So, insulation may not be the newest nor the sexiest technology, and yet there is no possible argument against the results it produces towards sustainability. Properly installed insulation makes the difference between a building meeting the 2030 European energy goals, or not.
What is the best insulation practice for open plan spaces?
Basically, the thicker, the better. Good thick insulation will save you money, increase the occupants’ thermal comfort, and reduce the risk of mold formation due to dampness. Also, by properly insulating a building, one is saving energy and reducing CO2 for the community. The better the insulation, the less an HVAC system is needed to maintain the building’s temperature. And of course, ultimately, keeping our energy consumption to reasonable levels will slow down climate change.
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Time to Act: recognising Spain’s key role in enabling renovation in Europe.
On 3 October, Renovate Europe Day, named ‘Time to Act: Spain as a driving force on building renovation’ will take place in Madrid. It’s the first time the event is being held in a national capital other than Brussels. The decision reflects the organisers’ desire to capitalise on synergy opportunities with the Spanish presidency of the EU at a crucial time for the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), now in its final trilogue. It’s also a response to the growing importance of Member States in making groundbreaking EU legislation a reality.
URSA – the importance and impact of committing to sustainability
Companies that commit to sustainable practices are helping achieve climate targets. URSA uses life cycle analysis, recycling & upcycling, and has even built a solar power plant – all as part of the company’s ESG strategy and sustainability objectives.
Interview with Silvia Herranz, Sustainability and Technical Manager at URSA Insulation
Silvia Herranz, Sustainability and Technical Manager at URSA, highlights the numerous benefits of insulation, encompassing enhanced energy efficiency and diminished environmental emissions.
Advancing human health, safety, and well-being with healthy buildings
What are the so-called "healthy buildings"? Air quality, thermal health and noise, are some of the nine key factors that the Harvard team determining has identified a building is healthy.
UPM Biochemicals and URSA create sustainable insulation for construction industry
UPM Biochemicals and URSA have partnered to develop eco-friendly building insulation, aiming to decrease energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Building insulation and its role in global climate goals
Insulation helps maximise energy usage and the use of natural resources, keeping a building warm in winter and cool in summer. Insulation is the key to sustainable construction that contributes to a carbon-neutral world.
Etex's sustainable lightweight solutions drive very strong 2022 financial performance.
Etex achieved new record performance across the board, including in revenue, REBITDA and net recurring profit while setting another major milestone with its Road to Sustainability 2030 commitments.
Protecting nature: one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change
Today, as the planet celebrates World Polar Bear Day, we want to remind you that the two polar bears in our logo represent one of our most important corporate values: the instinct to protect.
URSA obtains certification for its energy management system following the ISO 50001:2018 Standard
One of the most important benefits of this standard has been the redefinition and implementation of new energy efficiency criteria in its production activities. The Energy Efficiency strategy will continue to add initiatives in the first quarter of 2023.
URSA is committed to renewable energies with the installation of photovoltaic plants at its factories in Tarragona.
The plants will have nearly 7,000 state-of-the-art photovoltaic panels on their roofs, which will provide the annual energy equivalent to the consumption of 1,515 homes.
5 tips to avoid excessive electricity bills in Winter
Good thermal insulation on the walls will allow you to insulate yourself from the cold and keep the heat in your home. This and other tips on how to deal with low temperatures and save at the same time.
Etex goes beyond sustainable lightweight construction and commits to 2030 circularity and decarbonisation targets
To face our world’s critical needs for sustainable and qualitative living spaces, global building material manufacturer and pioneer in lightweight construction Etex further pledges to be an agent of change in the sustainable building sector.
Etex continues its portfolio shift towards lightweight and sustainable building solutions by completing the acquisition of insulation expert URSA
Today marks a major milestone for Etex, as it secures a fifth technology in its business growth strategy. By adding URSA’s insulation expertise to Etex’s portfolio of technologies, Etex enhances its ability to provide products and solutions to meet the building challenges of today and tomorrow. Announced in January 2022, the deal has successfully been completed after meeting the customary closing conditions.
URSA obtains the GOLD certificate for indoor air quality
URSA certify the white blow-in wool range with the most prestigious private label in terms of VOC emissions: the Eurofins Indoor Air comfort GOLD.
Boosting the circular economy with the reuse of pallets
The wooden pallets used to transport material to construction, are often stored without use until they deteriorate or end up in landfills. The reuse of these helps to reduce soil erosion and reduce CO2.
Bankiz, the new verified FDES configurator of URSA insulation solutions
URSA develops a new tool that provides transparent access to the environmental and health declarations of its products. BANKIZ allows them to calculate and deliver verified environmental product declarations for their insulation materials.
“Safe work, safe life”, a campaign to interiorize an essential concept
Under the slogan “Safe work. Safe life”, we have launched an internal action and communication campaign with which we intend not only to transmit our commitment to safety, but also that employees in each plant integrate it as their own in their daily lives.
Building insulation – a priority for the EU’s renovation plans
With an eye toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the European Commission has set out to double, through the Renovation Wave strategy, the current building renewal rate over the next ten years. Improvements in thermal insulation are one of the main measures to reduce energy losses.
Etex confirms its portfolio shift by acquiring thermal and acoustic insulation expert URSA
The new year sees Etex consolidate its portfolio of sustainable business activities through the acquisition of URSA, a European leader in insulation solutions. Etex secures a new business growth platform through the deal, alongside an opportunity to continue playing a pivotal role in addressing sustainability challenges. By adding insulation expertise to its plasterboard, fibre-cement, passive fire protection and modular offering, Etex will also extend its ability to provide systems and solutions. This latest acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.
What does “deep renovation” of a building mean?
How to upgrade the buildings we have now so that they are fit for the future? Deep renovation is the best option for meeting the EU’s 2050 zero-emission target and mineral wool insulation is essential for this type of renovation if we want to achieve EU’s environmental objectives.
“Where I live, it’s never too cold so I don’t need to insulate my home.” – REALLY??
There are many false beliefs about insulation in summer and warmer countries. Insulation is key to maintain the temperature of your home throughout the year. A properly insulated home is one of the best contributions to reducing the carbon footprint and combating the effects of climate change.
As green as glass mineral wool
Some manufactured solutions which are very good for the environment remain relatively unknown, for example, glass mineral wool insulation materials.
Renovate to Survive - can we beat the energy efficiency challenge?
Have you thought about what are the real challenges of energy efficiency? There are many that we need to tackle but building renovation is key as it represents 36% of CO2 emissions. But it can never be an individual effort...
Measurably sustainable: Sustainability Report 2020
In the new sustainability report, we make our sustainability ambitions and targets transparent and measurable.
The New Green Deal in Europe: will it be enough?
Even though some may think the New Green Deal is not enough, we need to participate to make it real. Because we are not only speaking about climate change that per se is important enough. We are talking about a new way of doing things. And let's face it: we really need it.
Our goal: driving innovative strength
Innovation management, basic research, and technological development: This is the foundation on which we position the Xella Group for the future and meeting societal as well as industry -specific challenges – be it climate protection, energy savings, or resource efficiency. Since 2014, we have therefore been operating our own technology and research company (Technologie - und Forschungsgesellschaft / T&F) near Berlin.
A new edition of our Sustainability Report is coming soon
ESG is not a new topic or trend for us. For decades, URSA and Xella, all together, stood for sustainable and innovative construction and insulation materials that make a significant contribution to the energy efficiency of buildings.
Our goal: Responsible leadership
As a company, we take our economic and social role very seriously and want to be a fair, reliable and trustworthy partner to our customers, business partners and employees. In order to always comply with ethical and legal standards in our business activities and in our dealings with our supply chain, we place high demands on our governance.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home. More than ever this sentence has become more relevant to “the whole world” in the covid19 era. We are finding the need to live in safe, efficient and comfortable homes as they have become our only place to be when times are tough. Why don´t we rethink our economic model and base it on #sustainability and research, whilst at the same time protecting the #climate?
Protect the climate and stimulate the economy with efficient support programs
At the heart of European climate and energy policy is the creation of structures for a secure, affordable and environmentally compatible energy supply. Given the consequences of the corona pandemic, Europe is also facing massive economic challenges, e.g. rising unemployment, declining economic output, a drastic slump in local business and income tax revenues, cancelled or postponed investments.
The new 55% target for energy efficiency: is it feasible?
Can we reach the new goal of 55% of energy reduction? Of course, we can but we need to set a clear path for local governments to transform goals into executive actions. At Eurima (European Insulation Manufacturers Association) we believe in three main areas key to help all actors to achieve this goal.
Our goal: Safe work
Safety in the workplace is a top priority at URSA as part of Xella Group. That's why we see it as a matter of course to promote the long-term health of our employees and ensure their safety. We want our employees to go home from work every day healthy and unharmed.
#GreenRecovery: Adaptation of Subsidy Programs is Key Now
It is great to see that the German government decided on a green recovery package. It increased the budget for #EnergeticRenovation programs for private and public buildings, and social facilities significantly by 2 billion EUR in 2020 and 2021 totaling each year 2,5 billion EUR to reduce our #CO2emissions.
Big Data and building renovation: out of sight, out of mind
If we use Big Data for almost everything, why not use it for energy efficiency? Right now, we have no real idea of what is going on in Europe´s building stock. Information is key to change things, also in energy efficiency in buildings.
Our goal: A strong team
Our employees form the basis of our long-term success. We want to be an attractive employer in all respects. High-quality training at Xella and investments in our employees' qualifications contribute to this, as do fair, performance-based remuneration, a non-discriminatory working environment, and flexible options for balancing work and family life.
Women in construction
Today, it is still unusual to find women in construction. We would like to stand out one of the exceptions at URSA. Marina explains her work and her daily challenges in an interview in which she claims: "Girls must be empowered to design their future and fight for it"
Our goal: Improving circular economy capabilities
Building materials from Xella consist mainly of natural raw materials and are almost completely recyclable. URSA insulation products are already largely made from reused materials. Therefore, the conversion of value chains to value cycles makes sense for us for ecological and economic reasons. The circular economy is thus a key aspect of our ESG strategy.
Being energy certified means up to 10% more value for your property
The real estate market increasingly values sustainability in buildings. But how to measure your capacity for savings and efficiency? New buyers are willing to pay up to 10% more for properties that can prove their reduced consumption with energy certificates. Insulation is the first step.
Our goal: Reduce CO2 emission intensity by 30% by 2030
URSA will contribute its own efforts to help Xella, the parent group, achieve its ambitious environmental goals aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
URSA joins Xella Group in supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals
With our business model, we have a high level of positive impact opportunities. To actively leverage this, we sharpened our ESG focus as part of the review of our Sustainability Strategy 2020 and worked out how our strategy can contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this core vision, URSA has joined as well to work towards progress and sustainability together and better.
Acting responsibly: Xella joined UN Global Compact
Xella Group has joined the world's largest and most important initiative for responsible corporate governance: The United Nations Global Compact. Xella is committed to the ten sustainable principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment, and corruption prevention.
Our grain of sand to a Net Zero society
Xella has started an ambitious ESG journey and URSA has jumped on this train. Among our commitments, URSA MW insulation solutions will incorporate up to 80 % recycled materials in their manufacturing, besides other concrete and tangible objectives for occupational safety, diversity, and corporate social responsibility.
The first step towards insulation: mineral wool
Good insulation provides comfort, safety and sustainability for the home. Glass mineral wool solutions offer thermal and acoustic comfort, directly contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the European Union.
Dialog with our stakeholders and our essential sustainability topics
Our mission is to enable energy-efficient and long-lasting housing – and to provide as sustainably as possible. To achieve this goal and keep improving, we are in constant exchange with our stakeholders.
Solidarity goes beyond borders
At this important time, we want to promote the value of solidarity by sharing the different initiatives carried out by the different URSA regions with the aim of preserving the basic needs of people and contributing to a decent life.
Sustainability at Xella: Best in Class in our industry
The reputable ESG rating agency Sustainalytics has given Xella a rating of 18.3, putting Xella in first place out of all 115 companies in the building materials sector assessed by Sustainalytics. Sustainalytics therefore classifies the risk of financial impact caused by ESG aspects at Xella as low.
Healthy Buildings for Unhealthy Times: Why Renovate Europe should lead the post-COVID-19 era
It has been shown that the condition of buildings can impact the health of the people who inhabit them. Good insulation or adequate ventilation not only reduces the risks of contracting diseases but is also beneficial for people’s mental health. What should Europe do about it?
Energy efficient and affordable housing – delivered sustainably
URSA, as part of Xella Group, stands for innovative, safe and sustainable building and insulation materials and is the solution provider for energy-efficient, healthy and cost-optimized construction. Thus, our product portfolio contributes to decarbonization and to a low-carbon construction sector.
Does the circular economy help minimize the environmental effects of the construction industry?
Applying the principle of the circular economy to construction materials and the renovation of buildings offers benefits not only for the sector but for society in general. The architect must be a fundamental part of this change in the way the world thinks.