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How we redesigned our offices to be more sustainable


7 min read
How we redesigned our offices to be more sustainable

At Cloudflare, we are working hard to ensure that we are making a positive impact on the surrounding environment, with the goal of building the most sustainable network. At the same time, we want to make sure that the positive changes that we are making are also something that our local Cloudflare team members can touch and feel, and know that in each of our actions we are having a positive impact on the environment around us. This is why we make sustainability one of the underlying goals of the design, construction, and operations of our global office spaces.

To make this type of pervasive change we have focused our efforts in three main areas: working with sustainable construction materials, efficient operations, and renewable energy purchasing (using clean sources like sunlight and wind). We believe that sustainable design goes far beyond just purchasing recycled and regenerative products. If you don’t operate your space with efficiency and renewables in mind, we haven’t fully accounted for all of our environmental impact.

Sustainability in office design & construction

“The Retreat” in the San Francisco Cloudflare office, featuring preserved moss and live plants
“The Retreat” in the San Francisco Cloudflare office, featuring preserved moss and live plants‌‌

Since 2020, we have been redefining how our teams work together, and how work takes place in physical spaces. You may have read last year about how we are thinking about the future of work at Cloudflare - and the experimentation that we are doing within our physical environments. Sustainable and healthy spaces are a major element to this concept.

We are excited to highlight a few of the different products and concepts that are currently being used in the development of our workplaces - both new locations and in the reimagination of our existing spaces. While experimenting with the way that our teams work together in person, we also consider our new and updated spaces a sort of sustainability learning lab. As we get more and more data on these different systems, we plan to expand these concepts to other global locations as we continue to think through the future of the in-office experience at Cloudflare.

An example of sustainable acoustic baffles as seen in our San Francisco office
An example of sustainable acoustic baffles as seen in our San Francisco office

Baffling baffles, fishing nets and more

It’s our goal to have the products, furniture, and systems that make up our offices be sustainable in a way that is pleasantly (and surprisingly) pervasive. Their materials, construction, and transportation should have either a minimal, or regenerative, impact on the environment or the waste stream while also meeting high performance standards. A great example of this is the acoustic sound baffling used in our recent San Francisco and London redesign and currently being installed at our newest office, which is under construction.

If you’ve ever worked in an open office, you know that effective sound management is critical, regardless of if the space is for collaborative or focus work. In order to help with this challenge, we use a substantial number of acoustic baffles to help significantly reduce sound transfer. Traditionally, baffles are made out of tightly woven synthetic fibers. Unfortunately, a majority of baffles on the market today generate new plastic in the waste stream.

We chose to move away from traditional baffles by installing FilaSorb acoustic baffles by AcouFelt. The fibers in FilaSorb are made from post-consumer plastic beverage bottles diverted from landfills. Every square foot of our FilaSorb felt contains the regenerated fibers made from over 10, 20oz recycled bottles. Each panel has a useful life of over twenty years, and at the end of its life the panel can be recycled again.

The International Institute of Living Futures has certified that this product is acceptable for the Living Building Challenge, which is the most rigorous regenerative building standard in the world.

Similarly to FilaSorb, we also installed BAUX Acoustic Wood Wool paneling to provide additional sound dampening and a vibrant acoustic wall treatment. Designed using a process that focuses on recarbonation, BAUX Wood Wool panels absorb over 6.9 kg per meter squared of carbon dioxide. That’s a little over 70% of the total measured CO2 released during the entire manufacturing life cycle of the panel. Beyond their acoustic benefits, Wood Wool panels resist heat and are ideal insulators. This enables us to use less energy in heating and cooling to maintain a stable temperature in fluctuating weather.

Interface’s Net Effect Carpet Collection uses discarded fishing nets in their construction
Interface’s Net Effect Carpet Collection uses discarded fishing nets in their construction

Flooring is also a significant focus of our design team. We wanted to find a high wearing material that had brilliant color that also had strong regenerative properties across the full manufacturing lifecycle. We were very fortunate to have found Interface’s Net Effect Collection. Interface is one of the few fully certified carbon-neutral flooring materials providers.

Their Net Effect collection is made with 100% recycled content nylon, including postconsumer nylon from discarded fishing nets gathered through their Net-Works® partnership. Net-Works provides a source of income for small fishing villages in the Philippines while cleaning up their beaches and waters. The collected nets are sold to Aquafil, who, in turn, converts them into yarn for Interface carpet tile.

Furniture in landfills? Oh, my!

One shocking stat specifically has stood out to our team over the past two and half years as we have been rethinking our office spaces. 8.5 million tons of office furniture ends up in the landfill per year. That number was before the global pandemic completely redefined how companies think about their real estate footprints and shuttered a massive amount of office space in the United States. Major US cities like San Francisco and New York City still have commercial office vacancy rates upwards of 30% at the time of publishing. To do our part to keep furniture out of landfills, we are ensuring that we are reusing (and in some cases completely repurposing) our existing furniture portfolio as much as possible in every one of our projects.

We have taken it a step further to include our employees working from home. We commonly lend out office chairs and other unused office furniture to home office workers so that they don’t have to purchase new office furniture.

Sustainability in Office Operations

Rainwater harvesting system at our San Francisco office
Rainwater harvesting system at our San Francisco office

We haven’t just been thinking about how our construction materials can have a more positive impact on the environment. We’ve also been incredibly focused on trialing a number of different sustainable operations concepts within our spaces.

For instance, we have installed a 500 gallon rainwater harvesting system above our outdoor bike storage in our San Francisco office, designed to support our internal gray water needs. We understand the importance of natural light and plants within our spaces to help encourage the health and wellbeing of our teammates, thus we have a vast amount of plants in our San Francisco office. While we chose our plants for their low water consumption, they still require water. Our rain water capture system provides the water for all of our plants.

Additionally, we are focused on cultural changes amongst our staff to reduce our waste streams (which was no small feat amongst our die-hard LaCroix fans!). We have adopted Bevi sparkling and flavored water dispensing machines alongside traditional soda fountains to fully remove bottled water from our facilities. We also shifted to bulk snacks to further reduce the packaging entering recycling centers and landfills.

Renewable energy purchasing

Our San Francisco office is also giving us direct on the ground exposure to the complexities of renewable power sourcing in a shared grid environment. In order to guarantee we are using all renewable energy, we purchase our power through Pacific Gas and Electric’s Supergreen Service. But we don’t just stop there. To ensure that our energy usage is totally based on renewable power, we take our efforts a step further and separately purchase renewable energy as if we didn’t already have sustainable power.

Coming soon: bees!

We are just getting started on our sustainability journey at Cloudflare. Over the next few years, we will continue to design, develop, and deploy a variety of different solutions to help make our offices as regenerative as possible. To leave you with a taste of where we are headed in 2023, I am excited to introduce you to a project that we are all very excited about: EntroBees. As you have likely heard, the global bee population has dropped dramatically, and a quarter of the bee species are at risk of extinction. We want to do our part to help encourage bees to thrive in urban environments.

Slated for installation at one of our global office locations, EntroBees will be fully managed onsite honey bee colonies. These colonies will provide a much-needed habitat for urban bees, produce honey for our local employees, and also serve as an additional source of entropy for our LavaRand system that provides the source of randomness for Cloudflare’s entire encryption system.

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Caroline Quick|@seacue

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