« How to Get Your Apartment Off the Grid | Main | Why the Office Needs a Typewriter Revolution »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



When sit at my desk on the 40th floor over-looking the vast blood red rivers of capital that flow into my city and I look down at the screen of my computer in my very expensive office, in my very expensive clothes, over top a parking garage with my very expensive car and I add the refining touches to the calculations in my very expensive spreadsheet, estimating the ROI to our investors for leveling 100000 hectares of topical rain-forest or unleashing 700 million barrels of crude onto the world, knowing full well that the mouth-watering numbers at the end of page will set in force a series of unstoppable motions once my report passes through the hands of my boss and her boss and their bosses.

And as I wait for the printer to finish, indifferent to the fate of so many its pages portend, I stare off to the toy-like landscape of skyscrapers and lesser office building, thinking that there are hundreds, if not thousands of me within only a couple square blocks of where I write, finishing their spreadsheets and finalizing their reports and sealing the fates of so many peasants and peons, animals and forests, mountains and streams.

Why is this not taken into consideration when calculating the ecological impact of office buildings, the highly organized activities within which unleash most of the damage and destruction in the world and only for one mindless, fanatical end.

While I truly appreciate your work, I think you are missing the bigger picture. The conversion of all things to money and the ever increasing pressure to feed that ancient beast of accumulation can not slow down...that would be ahistorical...it can only burn itself out when there is no more food for the cancer. That is to say, either the biosphere is destroyed or people stop believing in the fairy tales.



Are you aware of the Bullit Center in Seatle? An office building that met the Living Building standard? They would have to know the energy use of the office work.

Etienne Bayenet



I really believe that control strategy is a bigger issue than technology when looking at office work energy efficiency. There are millions of manager flighing from a branch to a national or international headquarter and back, on weekly, monthly, quarterly, twice a year or yearly basis. This is only possible with our modern travel technology.
In the 30's, 40's, 50's, Ford, GM, Dupont, Kodak, Nestle, Unilever, Siemens... could not have done that because traveling time was just too long. At that time, video-conference was not possible, sending spreadsheet was impossible... how did they control companies at that time ?
We know the problem that the more we optimize, the more we loose resilience, maybe this is the reason for extra control. I really wonder and would be happy if you had any ideas.

Best regards,




What about the land and building materials used by these obsolete office buildings? With telecommuting, 90% of office buildings are unnecessary. With online education, 90% of school buildings could also someday be eliminated. Think of the change this would have on cities: fewer roads, fewer parking lots. In the preindustrial era, the home was the center of daily life, the economic unit. In the information era, we could go back to that.



I think that's third article, where author attacs network for energy use. I'm IT administrator and have quite good knowledge of network equipment and its energy usage. Fiber optics equipment for connecting remote office of 10-100 workers needs only 14W. Thats 0.15 to 1.5 Wats/worker. If you go wireless, that's additional 3-5W for worker (AP for 10 users + wireless card in PC or laptop). Energy usage per worker actually shrank in the office in the last 10 years. Electricity bills confirms this. The only way to find, that energy usage is rising, is take numbers from the years 2002 - 2006 or sum all datacenters in the world. But servers in datacenters are used not for office work exclusively, but for entertainment mostly. As for home office... Teleconferencing does not use 2kW per user. That's more like per hundreds or even tousands of users. And thats way less than energy needed to travel to work and back every day.

kris de decker


@ Sigis

Your numbers are for the energy use of the network inside the building. I'm referring to the energy use of the network outside the building, which is much larger.

If you don't believe the energy use of the Cisco Teleconference system, then follow the link in the notes and you can find these figures on Cisco's webpage.

Not every videoconferencing call replaces a trip by car. That was extensively discussed in the article about the internet: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/10/can-the-internet-run-on-renewable-energy.html

J. Taylor


@ Sigis

Don't forget that in a finite world we cannot ever approach a 'sustainable' mode of life by increasing efficiency in use, as the energy and resources inherent in the latest piece of technology have to be taken into account.

Unless the net energy use is zero, it's irrelevant whether a particular technology is more 'efficient' than another. It's like traffic congestion: building roads actually increases car use rather than easing congestion, as more people consider using a car. Adding bandwidth or efficiency(as mentioned in the low-tech Internet article, if I remember) is not the way to 'solve' these issues.

The infrastructure that underpins the new technologies is also necessary to consider in any energy audit.

Baksa Péter


Office buildings are more densely packed with ppl than residential buildings, so the comparison of energy use per sqm is misleading.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)