Reducing digital carbon footprints in offices – The case of l’archipel, VINCI’s new head office
4 October 2022 - Sustainability - France
74% of employees want their company to reduce its digital carbon impact in order to preserve the environment. VINCI made a number of decisions on the drawing board for its new headquarters – from eco-designing information systems to using low-power electronics and on to engineering smart buildings and disseminating best practices – to lastingly reduce its offices’ digital carbon footprint.
Eco-designing information systemsReducing digital carbon footprints involves considering the full life cycle of installations and equipment, starting at the design phase.
This means taking into account the quality of the hardware, the architecture of the network connecting it and the way the system is used.
And this was the overarching rule to design the information systems at l’archipel, VINCI’s new 74,000 sq. metre head office housing 4,000 workstations and 500 meeting rooms.
Here are a few examples of the technology choices – which may seem simple but make a big difference on a large scale.
The switches that connect computers to the company network, which usually go in data centres or other technical facilities, are inside the suspended ceilings at l’archipel. As a result, they are much nearer the workstations and use much less cable – in this case 250 km less!
Even more importantly, this saves more than 430 sq. metres of space that would have needed to be secured, ventilated and cooled. In total, this is avoiding the equivalent of 50 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
The eco-designed information system at l’archipel compared to standard IS infrastructure:
- 250 km of cable not used,
- 430 sqm of rooms not requiring securing, ventilation and cooling systems,
- 50 tonnes of carbon emissions avoided.
Low-power electronics and digital best practicesA resilient and modular architecture
To treat users to a simpler and seamless experience throughout its buildings, VINCI also opted for standardisation. All employees working at l’archipel (or remotely) use the same functionalities to access their digital workspace, and they all have the same user-experience, navigation and security levels.
The zero trust network access (ZTNA) principle makes for a more modular network that is more flexible when it comes to servicing and maintenance, and more resilient. Aiming for more sustainable hardware
One of the most powerful levers to reduce digital environmental footprints in companies, no doubt, is extending each piece of equipment’s useful life as much as possible. This is because more than half of the carbon emissions from hardware (computers, smartphones, monitors, etc.) are generated during production.
Environmental concerns are gaining traction in equipment design, and as a result prompting manufacturers to innovate in order to maximise durability and efficiency.
VINCI is fulfilling this objective in two ways: by buying as little new hardware as possible – because it consumes very substantial amounts of primary resources and releases considerable amounts of carbon – and only buying the longest-lasting pieces of hardware when buying new ones is the only option.
At l’archipel, and at many other modern head offices, each conference room, meeting room and workspace has presence sensors that switch monitors on and off, and regulate the light, temperature and sunshine in the room. These systems, which optimise user comfort day after day and combine to lower energy bills in buildings, also overlap with VINCI’s aim to reduce its direct emissions by 40% by 2030.
Adopting digital best practices on a daily basis
Another key to limiting digital carbon impacts in offices is empowering employees to use systems smartly and sensibly. This mostly involves raising awareness and providing training.
Switching off computers or putting them to sleep, closing any applications we are not using, bookmarking sites instead of running new searches over and over, and using collaborative tools to share documents instead of emailing them as attachments are a few examples. Even though these quick measures may seem easy to take, it’s important to establish these new practices so that they become automatic.
“Being aware of our impact with everything we do, and being able to measure it, is one of the keys to effectively reducing our individual digital footprint,” says Samir Hatim, VINCI’s Group Chief Information Officer. He continues, “This is precisely what GreeT, an application we developed, does. With it, users can visualise their digital consumption, measure their carbon impact and find help to adopt more positive practices. At the IS department, we clearly have a role to play supplying high-quality equipment, but we are also here to provide support to make sure people use this equipment as responsibly as possible.”
At its showcase head office and in all its other offices, VINCI continues to invest in solutions that help limit digital carbon emissions from buildings.
The Group also supports Utelogy, a startup working on technology to gather data from hardware and other digital tools in offices, optimise consumption and encourage sounder stewardship.