Green buildings are constructed and designed in a way that is environmentally friendly, starting from their construction right through to end of life. This means that they generate less waste products and provide a healthier space for tenants to live and/or work for decades to come.
Truly green buildings have considered every element of the construction and design process, including such things as the land the building is being constructed on, the wildlife in the area, where the construction materials are extracted from, how the property will look or be used several decades into the future, and how the power in the building is generated/where it is sourced from...among many other factors.
The real estate development industry produces huge volumes of waste during property construction. Due to the increased awareness of this, and the sustainability movement, future-proofing properties and developing properties in a more environmentally-friendly way has increased in priority and demand.
Since more tenants and property investors are now more conscious that they would like to live in an area or building that considers the environment and well-being of the tenants, more and more property development companies have made sustainable construction part of their work processes, and goals.
How do property development companies benefit from green buildings?
- Recycling: During construction, recycled or reused materials could be used on the building. Not only does this mean reduced waste for the environment, and less creation/extraction of new resources, but it also could mean a financial saving on the materials. If the resources were destined for waste disposal, both the planet and the wallet could benefit from the use of this material.
- Higher selling point: When it comes to selling a green building, due to the lower utility bills, future-focused design (e.g. flood proof, cleaner air etc), and well-considered community focused elements of new green buildings, the selling point is often higher than a standard, non-green building. Not only this, but green buildings often utilize technology for anything from access control to smart gyms, which ensures that the tenant’s way of life is easier and more convenient. For investors this is often extremely appealing, as a modern and smart property is often easier to rent out.
- Government grants: With a number of climate goals that governments around the world are striving to meet, it is in their best interest to encourage green building construction. Some governments offer grants to property development projects so long as they are going to be more environmentally friendly. This is an excellent incentive for property development companies to build green buildings.
How do property development companies achieve ‘green building status’?
To achieve ‘green building status’, property development companies can follow regulations or certifications. Certifications and regulations have been introduced by both governments and organizations to incentivize property development companies to construct green buildings. They lay out guidelines for property development companies to follow in order to construct a building which can stand the test of time and climate. It is also attractive and enticing information to share with investors or tenants.
Here are two examples of certifications or regulations:
EU taxonomy: This is a scheme with the goal of achieving a climate-neutral economy in the EU by 2050. For real estate, it focuses on areas such as renewable energy, biodiversity and the circular economy. While it isn’t mandatory to comply with, in order to be appealing to investors and increase competition, property developers are encouraged to comply with it.
The taxonomy regulates such things as climate protection, adaptation to climate change, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to circular economy, water prevention (i.e. floods) and recycling, prevention and control of pollution and protecting healthy ecosystems.
BREEAM: BREEAM is a sustainability assessment framework which looks at several different factors of a building, including energy, transport, land use, innovation, waste and pollution. The ratings from this assessment range from unclassified through to outstanding. The accreditation is an internationally recognized badge of assurance that the building is conforming to the scheme and is therefore built in a conscious and sustainable way.
What examples are there of green buildings?
The edge, Amsterdam: With the highest BREEAM score ever, it is worth taking note of some of the brilliant design elements in this property. The building has solar panels installed which creates more energy than the building uses, which isn’t surprising since the LED panels feature motion sensors (among other sensors, including temperature, humidity and infrared). It uses 70% less electricity than the typical office space. Not only this, but a large tub collects rainwater, which is then used to flush the building’s toilets and water the gardens.
Powerhouse Kjørbo, Sandvika: This property is an example of how a property doesn’t have to be newly constructed to be considered outstanding by BREEAM. Built in the 1980s, this property was totally renovated and became Norway’s first energy-positive office building. After the renovation, the building’s energy needs were reduced by more than 86%. The building has an energy plant with a heat pump, and also receives energy from one of Norway’s largest solar parks.
With the increased construction of green buildings, property developers, architects and technology companies alike are becoming increasingly innovative with the solutions they create for green properties. This means that, moving forward, new properties can take inspiration from those that have excelled at creating modern, smart and green buildings.
Overall, green buildings represent an innovative and necessary advancement in the real estate industry, responding to both environmental concerns and the rising demand from conscious tenants and investors. They stand as a testament to the industry's increased commitment towards minimizing its environmental impact, adopting sustainable practices, and enhancing occupant health and comfort. It's an exciting time in the real estate industry, with the future promising even greater strides towards fully sustainable and environmentally conscious real estate development, and with continuous education and sharing of information about the latest advancements in sustainable materials, design practices, and technologies, property development companies can stay ahead of the curve, and continue to contribute to reducing their impact on the planet.
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