How circular is your office?

7 April 2015

With the launch of our Circular Economy Model Office project, the office refurbishment sector is about to go through a sustainability shake up. Find out what this means for your business, which companies are getting involved and why.

When an office is refurbished the process typically goes like this: architects and designers are briefed, designs are produced, existing materials and furniture are thrown out, and new materials are bought.  It’s a process that takes place around the country, week in, week out.

This process contributes to the massive amount of construction and demolition waste which, according to the Ministry of the Environment, represents approximately 50% of all waste in New Zealand. It therefore made sense for the one of the first projects to emerge from our work stream on Accelerating the Circular Economy in NZ to focus on a related area, and the office refurbishment process is ripe for change.

“There is enormous potential to design out waste in the refurbishment of offices, with wide-ranging benefits including cost savings, minimising landfill volumes, reducing the need for virgin material, creating jobs via repurposing materials, and helping charities through the donation of materials,” says James Griffin, Transformation Leader – Mega Efficiency at the Sustainable Business Network.

“I was already aware of a lot of our member businesses working in related aspects of office refurbishment, office products, waste and recycling. We also approached industry bodies like the New Zealand Green Building Council, the New Zealand Institute of Architects and the Designers Institute of New Zealand to broaden our search for organisations looking to transform the sector.

“The result was the formation of the Circular Economy Model Office collaborative project, which we’re thrilled to be officially launching shortly. It’s a real success story resulting from the synergies of some smart and innovative businesses. It includes a cross section of the industry, including architects, designers, product specifiers and manufacturers collaborating to find solutions to all this office refurbishment construction and demolition-related waste.”

The aim of the Circular Economy Model Office (CEMO) project is to minimise waste created by the refurbishment and build of offices by using the principles of a ‘circular economy’: a system that operates in a closed loop with no waste, where the lifecycle of materials is maximised, usage optimised and at the end of life all materials are re-used.

It’s a viable and more efficient alternative to the prevailing linear model – ‘take-make-waste’ – where tonnes of needless waste from office refurbishments and builds end up in landfill sites around the country.

Gordon Wiffen, General Manager of Philips Lighting NZ says that reducing the new resources we use is simply the right thing to do, which is why the company has got involved in the CEMO project.

“From an economic point of view, embedding the circular economy concept promises additional value creation potential across Philips’ value chains,” he says. “A more effective use of materials brings cost savings and helps us develop new markets as well as growing existing ones.”

Robb Donzé, Managing Director of INZIDE Commercial, says the CEMO project resounded with him because it’s a great way of raising the profile of product stewardship.

“There has been a lot of attention given to ‘green-style’ buildings but stuff from offices is still ending up in landfill,” he says. “Companies import most of the products they use in offices, but there aren’t yet end of life solutions for them. It’s not yet in people’s consciousness.

“We spend a lot of time analysing what’s going into products but if they all end up in landfill, what are we achieving? We need to make product suppliers responsible for whole life cycle of their products.”

There are three principles of a CEMO: as many of the current materials in-situ as possible are reused; any new materials require an end of life solution (excluding landfill) as well as a minimum environmental standard; and waste generated must be diverted from landfill, to be either re-used or recycled.

One of the focuses of the CEMO project is to produce a guide to office refurbishment aimed at architects, designers, project managers and construction managers.  James says the guide is the first step in making Circular Economy Offices the norm rather than the exception.

“The guide, which will be published in the next few months, outlines simple principles, provides ‘how to’ information and shares practical knowledge and experience from case studies.”

It will explain how businesses can make their office refurbishment more circular through four stages:

  • Stage 1: Catalogue and analysis
    Before any design or demolition work is carried out, in-situ materials are assessed for re-use, repurposing opportunities and alternatives to sending unwanted materials to landfill.
  • Stage 2: Design
    Materials analysis is used to track materials that can be re-used and highlight gaps where new materials are required. Design principles, such as incorporating the usage of in-situ materials, are crucial in maximising the potential of the Circular Economy Model Office.
  • Stage 3: Build
    The management of current and future waste streams is a key focus, with processes for dealing with existing materials remaining in-situ, materials remaining on site, and materials being removed from the site.
  • Stage 4: Review and evaluation
    Key metrics assess customer satisfaction, the amount of existing materials re-used and the amount of materials diverted from landfill.

All companies taking part in CEMO will have the opportunity to produce a self-declaration at the end, specifying the percentage of materials that were re-used, new materials with an end of life solution or product stewardship scheme, recycled content in new materials, and materials diverted from landfill.

SBN is looking for case studies to include in the guide, so if your business is about to embark on an office refurbishment or is in the process of doing so please contact James Griffin on

CEMO pioneers:


Philips is a Partner in SBN’s work on Accelerating the Circular Economy in NZ.

Philips sees the transition from a linear to a circular economy as a necessary condition to make the world healthier and more sustainable.

One way in which Philips is enabling the circular economy is through business model innovation – for example selling light as a service, rather than bulbs. Customers pay a service fee for the light, Philips installs, maintains and upgrades the system, and Philips re-uses and recycles the equipment after use. In addition, reducing power needs with LED technology and moving to renewable energy for lighting is making substantial energy savings.

Find out more about how Philips is transitioning to a circular economy in this infographic.

INZIDE Commercial

INZIDE Commercial is a Partner of SBN’s work on Accelerating the Circular Economy in NZ.

INZIDE Commercial specialises in sustainable, design-led flooring systems. Its main product lines are Interface carpet tiles and Forbo.

Robb Donzé, Managing Director of INZIDE Commercial, says Interface flooring products are recognised for their sustainability ethos but what is perhaps less well known is the commitment the company has to the product at the end of its life.

“If anyone returns the product to us we will make sure it gets used, either by a not for profit or sent overseas to make into new products. It does not have to end up in landfill,” says Robb.

Forbo Marmoleum, similar to old linoleum, is made from natural ingredients such as resin, wood pulp, cork and linseed oil. It’s also biodegradable, so at the end of its life it can be put into landfill.

Find out more about INZIDE Commercial and sustainability.

Auckland Council

Auckland Council is a Partner of SBN’s work on Accelerating the Circular Economy in NZ.

Having recently refurbished new Council offices in Albert Street, Auckland Council is using its experience as a case study for the CEMO project.

Andrew Walters, Principal Corporate Sustainability Advisor at Auckland Council, says there were three main learnings from the Council’s recent refurbishment experience.

“First, have the conversation about sustainability early in the piece and make it clear you want circular principles to become a core part of the project – before you brief architects and designers. Then everything becomes possible.

“Secondly, be bold and challenge existing assumptions. For example when we asked for non-PVC blinds, we were initially told that they would cost too much. However we insisted the quantity surveyor tested the market, and the non-PVC blinds came back at no extra cost.

“Finally, working with people with the time and passion to explore other opportunities, such as not for profits, brings new opportunities. For example, we learnt the benefits of creatively marketing our waste so that someone else would take it.

“You’re more likely to re-use contractors who share your values, for example we’ve formed a close, long-lasting relationship with Fletcher’s Interiors as a result of the project. So there are business opportunities for companies with similar values.”


EnviroSpec is an environmental consultancy that acts as the link between suppliers and specifiers of products and services in the building industry.

In the CEMO project, EnviroSpec has assisted in developing the matrix of possible re-use and recycling options for existing products and materials, as well as developing a framework for assessing new products in line with CEMO principles.

Alex Reiche, Director andSenior Consultant, says EnviroSpec is bringing to the table its many years of experience dealing with building products and environmental certification programmes.

Find out more –


JunkRun, which collects construction and office- and house-moving leftovers, sorts, recycles and repurposes other people’s ‘trash’, saving 70 per cent from landfill.

Fionna Gotts, Managing Director of JunkRun, says the CEMO project gives her company access to so much good material from offices. “We encourage builders and construction people not to smash up items that can be re-used, such as cabinetry, timber, doors, hardware and the like. We can then find a home for all these useful resources, for example with church groups or Habitat for Humanity. We sort through all this stuff to make sure it doesn’t end up as waste.

“JunkRun offers simple, instant, responsible waste solutions to both residential and commercial clients.  That means we do all of the work – sorting, separating, loading, cleaning up and taking it all away. We want anything that can be re-used left in as good a shape as possible so as we can move it back into the community for reuse.”

Part of the company’s role involves educating others to help them see material as resources rather than waste.

Find out more about JunkRun’s work.


WasteMINZ is the largest representative body of the waste and resource recovery sector in New Zealand. It has more than 1,000 members – from small operators through to councils and large companies.

Paul Evans, CEO of WasteMINZ, says he is supportive of CEMO, which he thinks is a great project, and wants to see it advance

James Griffin will be speaking about CEMO at the upcoming WasteMinz Roundup on 23rd and 24th April.  Based on Sustainable Economies – Building a better industry, the conference will explore the interactions between the waste industry and business at large to help create a smarter and more sustainable economy.

Find out more about WasteMINZ’s work.

If you’d like to find out more about CEMO, get involved in the project, or have a case study to include in the guide please contact James Griffin: