As cities across the country continue to grow and develop, commercial real estate professionals have increasingly focused on sustainability to minimize their environmental impact. Since the U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED certification in the late 1990s, many real estate developers have approached construction with environmental resources in mind.
Nearly 25 years later, sustainability is still a hot topic. But “sustainability” is a broad term and knowing how to incorporate these principles into your building can be confusing. Identifying what are sustainable practices and what aren't is complicated and depends on your goal. Here, we break it down for you.
What Does It Mean To Be Sustainable in Commercial Buildings?
Sustainable design not only involves reducing the negative environmental impacts of a building but also considering how the building affects the health of the people who use it. Sustainability aims to reduce the use of nonrenewable resources while promoting a healthy environment.
How Does Sustainability Work?
Sustainability aims to improve how humans coexist with the natural environment. It works to reduce the use of environmental resources when constructing and operating a commercial building and during agricultural development. Sustainable buildings involves everything from reducing fossil fuels used to heat and cool the building to eliminating indoor air contaminants that can potentially make people sick.
Sustainable buildings are more energy-efficient;, they can useusing solar power, natural light, and other renewable resources to reduce consumption. They are also built with better ventilation standards and other factors that make the interior healthier for the building’s occupants.
Why Prioritize the Development of Sustainability Practices?
What are sustainable practices? Well, you might get different answers depending on who you ask. The term can refer to finance, social sustainability, and other quality of life factors. But in commercial real estate, people often focus on environmental factors when discussing sustainability principles.
Focusing on sustainability helps guide the future because it helps ensure that natural, social, and economic resources will be available for the next generation. This has a positive impact on developed and developing economies by helping ensure that resources aren’t depleted and reducing climate change, whichthat disproportionately affects developing countries.
Business leaders are also interested in sustainability practices to attract and retain customers. Most consumers want to do business with companies committed to reducing greenhouse gasses and combating climate change. Showcasing your environmental responsibility in any industry is vital for attracting new business.
What Do Environmental Sustainability Practices Look Like?
Knowing that you should consider environmental sustainability in commercial real estate is part of the equation. The next step is knowing how to apply these practices within your own buildings.
Understanding the Sustainability Pillars
The three pillars of sustainability are environmental, economic, and social. You may also hear the term “triple bottom line.” Commercial buildings primarily deal with the environmental pillar.
Environmental sustainability aims to reduce our impact on the natural environment. Sustainable development involves designing buildings to achieve energy sustainability by relying less on fossil fuels and more on renewable resources. When designing buildings with this principle in mind, you may use paint, carpeting, and other finishes with lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to make the building more comfortable for the people using it.
For sustainability in business, the environmental and economic pillars can overlap. Energy-efficient buildings are usually less costly to operate. Sustainable commercial buildings are often designed to improve productivity, which boosts people’s quality of life.
Aligning Company Ethics With Sustainability Goals
Committing to sustainability can show potential employees and customers that your company is ethical. Over 80% of people have indicated that they shifted their buying habits, preferring to do business with companies committed to environmental sustainability.
You may also consider committing to social sustainability to attract a talented workforce and new customers. This pillar involves managing business practices to positively impact current and future generations, and it’s important for attracting young people to your company.
Opting for Renewable Energy Infrastructure
Renewable energy is growing as more customers demand climate change solutions. Companies who may eventually rent your buildings often have their own goals for renewable energy, and your buildings should cater to these goals.
When you’re designing and constructing buildings, consider how you will incorporate renewable energy like solar or wind-powered electricity, solar hot water, and solar ventilation. Additionally, optimize natural light to reduce electricity usage in the building.
You may also consider testing your ventilation system and looking for energy leaks to make the building more efficient and less costly to operate. If you're operating older buildings, you may need to consider sustainability transitions and what that means for the existing energy infrastructure.
Utilizing Smart Technology
Smart building technology helps you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and can even help you reach carbon neutrality. Use tools within the building to optimize energy usage. You could choose heating and air conditioning systems that automatically adjust to a variety of analytics rather than simply turning on or off based on the temperature.
Smart technology can also provide valuable data to help you retrofit your HVAC, lighting, and other systems to operate more sustainably.
Reducing Air Pollution With Proper Ventilation
Monitoring your ventilation system helps you identify energy leaks that could increase your carbon footprint and cost your customers money. But it also helps you control the health and wellness of people within your building by letting you see air pollution levels.
Sustainability doesn't only refer to the external environment. It's also important to tackle interior environmental issues. Particulate matter in the air reduces indoor air quality and can negatively impact anyone in the building, especially if they’re inhaling these particulates for an extended period. Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality making your tenants healthier and more productive.
Invest in an IoT Platform To Easily Implement Sustainable Business Practices
If you’re on the sustainable development path, use an IoT platform that makes tracking your sustainability metrics easier. Senseware’s IoT platform allows you to access mechanical, electrical, environmental, and plumbing data in one place. You can use it to measure your existing infrastructure or install a new sensor at a current site.
The platform generates valuable metrics you can use to assess your progress toward sustainability metrics. Use these metrics when speaking with potential tenants for your buildings and keep all your buildings running efficiently with real-time data.
Contact us to learn more.