How green is your office building?
In a bid to become more environmentally friendly, the UK Government is cracking down on legislations to help ensure a greener, more sustainable future. The construction industry has recently come under fire, and new guidelines issued by the UK Green Building Council state that building emissions should be halved by 2020, which exceeds current Government targets to cut emissions by 34%.
In the office space industry, both providers and tenants alike are switching on to the effects of greener buildings – not just for the benefit of the environment, but also for the long-term cost-saving advantages.
So how green is your office building?
To help explain the technology behind sustainable developments, officebroker.com delves into the green construction industry to bring you the facts. For further details on sustainable buildings, find out more in our BREEAM article.
How to ‘green’ your existing property
For many landlords and office providers, one of the biggest difficulties faced is how to improve an existing building. Older properties have generally been built with less consideration of their impact on the environment than more modern structures. Therefore changing existing features can often be more challenging, when compared to designing a new green building from a blank canvas.
However, there are a great many features that can be incorporated into an existing building – all of which contribute towards a more efficient building, and help to reduce the overall amount of harmful emissions created by the property industry.
Incorporating technology to make the most of natural energy resources, such as using sunlight through passive solar, active solar, and photovoltaic techniques, is one way of moving away from non-renewable energy. Although often initially expensive to install solar technology, it becomes a long-term investment and the results soon start to pay for themselves.
Green or living roofs, a roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil over a waterproofing membrane, are becoming increasingly popular. They can provide important refuges for urban wildlife, and provide a pleasant break-out area for staff or visitors.
Some buildings even grow vegetables on the roof and sell them to local restaurants. However care should be taken in the planning stages of a green roof, as strengthening supports are often required and some older buildings may not have the structure to incorporate this.
Other benefits of a green roof involve rainwater harvesting, through its ability to reduce surface rainwater run-off. The water retention rate of green roofs is also becoming renowned for its ability to help prevent flash floods, following intense periods of rainfall.
Other features that can be incorporated in existing buildings include insulation in walls and roofs, as well as high-efficiency windows to help keep the heat in. Older buildings often have poor insulation around doors and windows, so these are prime areas that can be improved.
Of course, occupiers can also play a major part towards improved efficiency, by taking responsibility for green practices in the workplace. Recycling bins for paper, plastics, glass and tins can dramatically reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill, while good habits such as turning off all electrical equipment at the end of the day can help save energy.
Occupiers could car share, and also consider turning the heating down by 1 degree – statistics show that this can save up to 10% on heating bills.
Green techniques for new buildings
In the initial design and planning stage of a new building, architects are often able to factor in many more green features than existing structures. When deciding on the exact site, planners can focus on increasing the efficiency of the building’s resource use and maintenance through accurate siting, design, construction, operation and removal.
Smaller structures can benefit from natural building, which involves construction using locally sourced natural products. Although this is often more difficult for larger commercial buildings, due to the reduced availability of large quantities of natural products, parts of this process can still be used. For example, local products help to reduce the amount of energy used in shipping, when transporting materials to the building site.
As part of the initial design process, architects can plan to site the building to make the most of renewable resources such as sunlight. Systematic placing of the structure to keep in harmony with the natural features and resources surrounding the site helps to reduce the environmental impact of the building.
During construction, there are a number of green materials that can be used to help keep the actual build process more eco-friendly. Using renewable plant materials like bamboo (because it grows quickly), straw, timber from sustainably managed forests, recycled stone or metal, and other renewable resources can vastly improve new building processes.
Overall the process should seek to reduce energy waste, through recycled or reusable materials, reduced transportation and locally sourced products.
It should also aim to reduce the amount of hardcore that goes into landfills, for example when demolishing existing structures. Again this can be achieved through recycling, and sending the material to reclamation yards for re-use in other projects.
Aside from the construction phase of a new building, other features such as those utilised in older buildings can help maintain the reduced impact of the property on the environment. This includes green roofs, solar panels, and of course proper insulation throughout.
Green buildings in practice
Today, greener office properties are moving towards the top of the agenda for both providers and clients alike, as business owners switch on to the environmental and cost-saving benefits of eco-friendly structures.
One shining example is the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ property at Colmore Plaza in Birmingham, or the sustainable build in the City of London, near Farringdon station.
This serviced office in the capital boasts a number of green features, including green roofs and vegetation, solar heating, rainwater harvesting for toilets and green roof irrigation, a wind turbine for powering the irrigation, sensor lighting, recycling practices and more.
As property owners implement sustainable features such as this, they attract more businesses to their office space, which in turn advertises the benefits to other property landlords. This chain effect is helping to encourage a greener way of business, which will ultimately contribute to a dramatic reduction in harmful CO2 emissions from the property industry in the future.
For more details of green office space to rent, get in touch with our team of consultants for free regional and expert advice.