A need of the hour

Traditionally, commercial structures were not very sustainable largely owing to their size and use. However, with changing times the commercial building industry is also evolving.

Today these structures, regardless of their purpose, can become greener than ever. To reduce the impact of a commercial building on the environment, architects and engineers have the responsibility to make use of natural and sustainable materials that meet strict criteria. These materials need to impact the building’s energy efficiency substantially by creating a tight envelope that provides element protection and reduction in expenditure.

While for many builders and owners it is not yet completely clear which specific measures could be implemented towards the ambitious goals set out in the Paris Agreement, the market processes of supply and demand have gradually nudged them towards developing green, smart buildings, which meet the modern quality and infrastructure requirements without compromising the earth’s resources. In recent years, several sophisticated systems have been designed to minimize energy consumption and enhance occupant comfort in residential, office, retail and industrial buildings across the world. From this point of view, several sustainability assessment methods for buildings have become popular among real estate developers.

The ‘Shanghai Manual: A guide for sustainable urban development in the 21st Century’ published by the United Nations presents case studies on commercial projects across the world and reports lessons learned. A case study on HafenCity in Hamburg, Germany reveals that urban redevelopment projects that convert brownfields to greenfields can capture the imagination of a city and help recast its image as an innovative, creative and livable space.

Additionally, integrated approaches to rethinking a community can solve multiple urban challenges related to land use, housing shortages, energy supply, transportation and access to cultural services. A similar case study on US Green Business Council’s LEED Program suggests that building standards with measurable criteria are a good basis around which communities of practitioners can come together to design and build more sustainable buildings. A framework should allow enough flexibility for its application across all manner of buildings. Different levels of certification – silver, gold, platinum – allow builders to pursue certification levels commensurate with their level of available financing.

One of our responsibilities as responsible builders and developers is to decode how to implement strategies into our designs that take into consideration the people who occupy the spaces and our natural resource utilization while ensuring these projects are commercially viable. We have realized we can achieve this through three main goals: Reducing our carbon footprint, building healthy workplaces, and designing efficient and profitable buildings. Needless to say, every commercial building needs electricity to function smoothly. With that in mind, businesses do not have to depend entirely on the grid anymore – they can make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources simply by updating their infrastructure. For example, one can use efficient and affordable solar panels. Solar energy

is sustainable and cost-effective, and it can minimize a company’s CO2 emissions and energy costs. It is commonplace in some countries that if a building collects excess energy, it can sell it back to the energy provider and make a profit.

One of the most effective design strategies in commercial buildings is the inclusion of green roofs and walls. Landscaping is not a foreign subject to commercial real estate, but the concept of vertical gardens and green roofs is. Vertical gardens help a building boost its positive environmental impact. These gardens are typically installed on the exterior of the building’s envelope. Vertical gardens provide insulation as well as reduce heating and cooling costs. These breathing walls improve a building’s sustainability by reflecting solar radiation, absorbing rainwater and significantly improving air quality due to their nature of absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen.

To summarize, we strongly believe that the future belongs to green, sustainable buildings. Considering the current concerns and awareness around sustainability and the environment, it is critical for owners and developers to demonstrate, with the help of recognized certifications, that their new-age buildings are effectively supporting climate change goals, contributing to energy efficiency, providing comfortable and green premises that save energy, water and resources, generate minimal waste and support human health. As more inhabitants look for spaces that are beneficial for both people and the environment, and the pressure to slow and reverse climate change keeps increasing, green sustainable buildings are here to stay!



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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