June 8, 2021

Commercial Considerations for Sustainability in Building Design

Commercial Considerations for Sustainability in Building Design

Sustainability in building design has the potential to reduce construction costs and improve maintenance and utility requirements. But, in many cases, it can also enhance comfort, improve longevity, and create a safe and healthy indoor environment. Another goal of sustainability in commercial building design is to reduce the use of natural resources, decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Sustainable strategies can be integrated into new commercial building construction or retrofitted for an existing building. With the right team in place, building owners can create an energy efficient, high performance building.

Let’s take a look at sustainability in building design, the importance of energy-efficient solutions and considerations to take your organization to the next level of green building design.

What is Sustainability in Building Design

Sustainability in building design for commercial applications involves the use of processes, materials, and structures that are environmentally responsible. From selecting the site and designing a sustainable building to construction, operation, and maintenance, all aspects throughout the lifecycle of a building must be resource efficient.

Call to Action for Energy-Efficient Solutions

At the 2019 Climate Action Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated: “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.” For the commercial industry, this race is particularly challenging, since buildings and construction account for close to 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the UN Environment Global Status Report 2017.

Studies by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have found that the deployment of carbon capture and storage is critical to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In fact, according to the World Green Building Council, every building in the world must become ‘net-zero carbon’ by 2050 in order to maintain global warming below 1.5°C (less than 1% of buildings currently meet this standard).

The crisis urges engineers to design energy-efficient solutions for commercial buildings and construction according to the current climatic condition, reduce waste, and factor in a 100-year lifespan. The concept of sustainability in commercial building design goes beyond immediate return-on-investment (ROI) analysis; rather, it evaluates improvements over its entire life cycle that can reduce carbon emissions and electricity bills.

3 Green Building Design Considerations

Improving sustainability through green building designs can boost corporate image, attract quality tenants to properties and positively engage employees. Here are a three strategies to consider right away:

1. Utilize Sustainable Methods and Materials

Designing green buildings usually implies utilizing sustainable construction methods and choosing sustainable materials. Design considerations should also factor in how the buildings will operate and perform along its lifespan. This may include sustainable building strategies, such as building orientation that factors in passive solar gains throughout different seasons to reduce cooling loads in certain regions.

As with all parts building design, it’s imperative to follow codes and regulations when incorporating sustainability practices. A trusted engineering solutions provider, like KMB, has the experience and knowledge to navigate national and local standards throughout this process.

2. Manage Energy, Water, and Waste

Electricity is fundamental to an organization’s ability to operate. Transitioning away from traditional sources of energy toward renewable energy resources, such as solar, is one way to reduce carbon emissions and utility bills.

Water conservation and waste management are also core components of sustainability. Office buildings, schools, stores, hotels, restaurants and other commercial and institutional buildings utilize significant amounts of water and generate significant amounts of materials and waste. Utilizing recycled water is one way to help reduce water usage for site jobs. Other in-building considerations include low-flush toilet systems, audits of daily water usage, and using reclaimed water for needs that don’t include ingesting.

The most effective way to reduce a building’s waste is to generate less in the first place. Waste prevention offers the greatest environmental benefits and cost savings. Take a look at the Recycling at Work, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, this site provides an action plan, outreach tools, and case studies for organizations.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® is a free, easy to use, online tool for tracking waste, energy and water data over time. Use it to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings, all in a secure online environment.

3. Factor in Wellness

Beyond environmental and financial benefits, sustainable building designs also directly benefit the occupants and wider community by improving air, thermal and acoustic environments, enhancing occupant comfort and health, minimizing strain on local infrastructure, and improving overall quality of life. This might include design solutions such as maximizing the penetration of natural light, implementing technology to optimize and monitor air quality, or designing rooftop garden areas.

One way organizations can show their commitment to providing a healthier environment is by achieving a WELL Certification. This performance-based system is created by the International WELL Building Institute used for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact the following themes:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Nourishment
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Thermal Comfort
  • Sound
  • Materials
  • Mind
  • Community

Recently, IWBI released an interim Strategies from the WELL Building Standard to Support in the Fight Against COVID-19 to provide an actionable framework for organizations and communities as they advance a safer and healthier future.

The Future of Sustainability in Building Design

The need to construct or retrofit a building and embrace more sustainable ways of operating is no longer a PR exercise or green trend. In many cases, it has become an imperative business strategy and it all starts with improving sustainable building practices while moving away from traditional methods.

Given the extent to which commercial buildings can impact the environment, significant opportunities are available to make sustainable improvements. Although an organization may decide to focus on energy-efficient solutions, daylighting, water conservation, waste reduction, or other sustainable initiatives, the practice of sustainability in building design involves an integrated approach to planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance.

With experience in multiple sustainable projects, our experts at KMB look to propose and implement environmentally sound practices based upon historical evidence of practical, economical results.

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