The construction and maintenance of each and every building has an impact on the environment, whether small or great. It makes sense — during a structure’s construction, occupancy, renovation, repurposing, expansion, and demolition, the building uses and depletes energy, water, and raw materials, generates waste, and emits foreign chemicals and substances into the environment. This idea is probably neither surprising nor a new concept to you. However, something that is newer (and continues to emerge), is the practice of green building standards in commercial real estate.
A green building, as defined by the International City/County Management Association, is any structure whose integrated approach points to designing and building healthy, comfortable, cost effective, and environmentally friendly living and working environments. Green building practices are primarily focused on developing sustainable sites, increasing water and energy efficiency, reducing waste and emissions, using eco-friendly building materials, and improving indoor environmental quality more efficiently than conventional designs. Such initiatives aim to mitigate the impact of buildings on the natural environment through sustainable design, purpose, and use.
For at least the past decade, the economic and policy climates of the United States, among other factors, have created much incentive for green and sustainable energy-efficient buildings. The commercial real estate industry has indeed contributed to this momentum.
Maintaining the overall goal of providing a great tenant experience at the forefront, commercial real estate owners, managers and executives are increasing their focus on energy management via a sustainable building philosophy that embodies cost-effectiveness and energy-optimization.
Green Building Codes & Certifications
Green building codes and certifications that seek to push the standard of building design and construction to new levels of sustainability and performance continue to evolve.
Codes come in two basic formats: prescriptive and performance. A prescriptive green building path is a fast, definitive, and conservative approach to code compliance. Materials and equipment must meet a certain level of stringency to be considered part of a prescriptive green code. Performance-based codes are designed to achieve particular results, rather than meeting prescribed requirements for individual building components. If green codes become adopted on a widespread basis, their impact can change the building environment rapidly and extensively.
Green product certifications are intended to outline and confirm that a product meets a particular standard and offers an environmental benefit. Many product certifications are also recognized within comprehensive green building rating systems such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Globes, and the National Green Building Standard. Green product certifications are on the rise as CRE market conditions change and the demand for greener practices continues to increase.
Following, we take a closer look at some of the most popular and effective green building strategies. Each of these lend to CRE buildings becoming green certified and/or coded.
Waste and Water Management
Commercial buildings, by nature of their size, are large water users. While agriculture, power generation, and manufacturing account for a significant portion of water consumption in the U.S., commercial buildings are not far behind. However, buildings can adopt green process to minimize and conserve overall water use.
Green architecture focuses widely on sustainable on-site waste management, incorporating things such as on-site irrigation, rain gardens (for rainwater harvesting and reuse), installing low-flow flush toilets and sinks, regulating water pressure, and insulting pipes.
Green Building Materials
Specifying the use of recycled and low-impact building materials during the planning stages of a commercial building allows properties to provide realistic alternatives and options for sustainability over a building’s life. Green building materials, most of which are sustainably certified and qualify for LEED points, can improve indoor air quality, eliminate toxic chemicals, and create a healthier building.
Examples of green building materials include straw, thermally-modified wood, coal, adobe, cork, timber, cob, hempcrete, and cenocell. These same products can be used to construct products, structures, and surfaces throughout the building.
One largely accepted green practice is to implement the use of reusable energy sources. Gas and electric heat are no longer the only options. Sustainable architecture means exploring options that work with your structure and budget. Solar panels, wind turbines, solar water heating, and ground-source heat pumps are all viable options for commercial projects with the objective of being more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
Whether or not they are of historical significance, preservation of existing buildings is the most effective way to realize truly sustainable architecture. Not every new commercial property needs to be built from the ground, up. Many architects, designers, and appraisers can work with a property buyer or manager to preserve existing buildings, realizing and revitalizing their vision in a sustainable way.
At Valbridge Property Advisors, we specialize in appraising all types of property. We can work with you to produce custom, consistent appraisal reports of existing properties, taking into account the new vision you have for green conversion or adaptive reuse. We can also appraise existing green buildings, providing in-depth reports so that potential buyers and investors can make a decision that they know is the right one for them. Contact us today to learn more.