Commercial Real Estate Going Green
In tight economic times, real estate developers focus on any competitive advantage they can develop to make their project more attractive to prospective tenants. For many years, that mean simply being lower on rent or including better aesthetic features, but at the intersection of the green movement and a tough economy, features like light-blocking blinds and water saving toilets are leading the pack of pragmatic amenities.
Just as daily or weekly occupants are favoring lodging with an environmental edge, longer-term users
of commercial or residential space want to see an ecological angle being played by their landlords. And it’s extending far beyond token developments like programmable thermostats and branching into heavier conservation measures meant to reduce consumption of water, energy, and space. Today’s most green-friendly developers are working on all three fronts.
On The Water Front
Water consumption is a huge expense for most businesses, due in large part to a lack of incentive for employees to conserve on a bill that they don’t pay themselves. While faucets in kitchens and restrooms can be difficult to limit, water use by toilets and urinals can be more effectively managed. If it’s difficult to understand the impact of low-capacity toilets, the EPA reports that their implementation nationwide would conserve some 520 billion gallons of water each year. That’s a volume sufficient to fill the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, DC…seventy-seven times.
And as more land is re-purposed into denser developments, the pressure is on to construct projects that can operate off of existing water mains and not require upgrades by cash-strapped cities or cost-watching project managers. With penny-minded managers working daily to keep operations lean and clean, the building that can use less water will rent for more.
Slowing The Spin Of The Meter
Lights, heating, cooling, and office machines are the major consumers of electricity in commercial
space, while climate and appliances dominate residential use. New technology like MSi Lighting LED bulbs in light fixtures is permitting greater reflection of light into functional space, and motion-activated lights in closets and restrooms ensure that vacant rooms don’t get needless illumination.
Smart thermostats that can be managed throughout an entire occupancy by a single operator are guarding against overzealous temperature adjustment, and more-opaque window treatments are reducing the sun’s ability to increase room temperatures. In certain cases, residential buildings are including high-efficiency laundry appliances as a means of forcing residents to launder efficiently.
Space: The Perpetual Limitation
Although there’s no way to create additional space where none exists, developers can be more efficient in utilizing space that was once squandered. Huge, vaulted entryways have been scaled back in deference to the need for additional functional space. Floor plans are being adjusted for efficient movement of people and goods. Outdoor space is trimming down with parking lot layouts, driveways, and landscaping, and space is being created vertically and underground rather than being blocked off by shorter (or shallower) construction.
The impact has been clear. While few property seekers are consciously, actively searching for a space- and resource-friendly building, the desire of developers to operate more competitively is creating that result in an indirect fashion. The success of these projects sets a new standard that influences the choices made with other projects, and the long-term impact is expanding every year.