By Adam Gonzales
Commercial development is going through a strong phase of building with sustainability. The Green Building Council estimates that by 2015, nearly 50% of all new non-residential U.S. construction projects will be sustainable projects. In dollars and cents, that equates to more than $120 billion market value.
Additionally, according to a 2013 Deloitte report, driving energy use down is a growing goal for sustainable-project managers. In 2013, U.S. buildings account for 41% of energy usage, 73% of total electricity use, 38% of greenhouse gas emissions, and about 14% of water usage. LEED certifications are also on the rise, with about 2.5 billion sq. ft. of building space now LEED-certified (as of March 2013).
All told, this points to system-wide growth of sustainable practices in commercial building. But what constitutes success in specific sustainable projects in the overall commercial building sector? A clear understanding of an implementation plan is important. Having he ability to ask the right questions, measure the savings using accurate metrics, and get the financing together with the right financial backers are all key parts of the overall plan.
Another view from Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) Institute suggests there are four ways to make your non-residential project go green.
1) Knowing Current Needs
Commercial developers need to have a real-time, first-hand knowledge of a property’s overall needs to figure out what types of sustainable measures make sense. How old is the property? Is it difficult to add in green assets into the building’s core infrastructure? Looking at overall energy savings from an eco-friendly perspective will reduce utility bills for the building. Developers can also reap additional savings by using recycled materials on the current property.
2) Proper Green Certification
Commercial developers and real estate professionals must consult with U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for green certification for both existing and new developments. Having third-party verification for LEED categories like materials and resources, water efficiency and indoor air quality gives your project the sustainable attention it deserves. Using various environmentally friendly paints or materials in your building can help qualify in these areas.
3) Builder Incentive Programs
To underscore the importance of using sustainable measures and to build participation from developers across the U.S., various industry organizations offer incentives for builders to increase sustainability. One group offering free energy audits is the Building Owners and Managers Association International. Prospective sustainable developers are encouraged to check out an energy performance contract for existing buildings. Plus, BOMA’s lease guide can help facilities operators in understanding green commitments for recycling programs, forklift rentals, hours of operation, and even tenant responsibilities.
4) Tenant Education
Developers and commercial real estate professionals can use their sustainable building measures to better educate tenants in green practices, LEED certification, facilities recycling, heating and cooling practices and more. Through this process, commercial tenants can also learn to exist more efficiently in the building, and create sustainable measures of their own.
For more information, resources and links on sustainability practices for commercial buildings, try the resource page at the Building Owners and Managers Association International site (www.boma.org/research).
Adam Gonzales is a licensed contractor from Miami who blogs about a variety of construction and DIY projects.