Raising The Bar for Efficient Buildings with Sustainable Viability

by | Feb 12, 2015

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”


It is important, when beginning to understand the sustainable viability of buildings, to see them as an eco-system. All the inputs have an impact on the cost to use, including the materials used in construction and how behavior and business operations can be reengineered to improve use. From experience, sometimes what may seem trivial can reduce a building’s impact on its environment and the organization’s balance sheet dramatically. Think about how you can use your buildings to capture, create and deliver more value.

Indeed, it should be no surprise, for example, that sustainable, high performing buildings command a rental premium in the market, for energy efficient buildings result in lower operating costs for both owners and tenants. As far back as 2010, CBRE found that LEED certified or Energy Star labeled buildings have a 4% higher occupancy rate than market average, and LEED certified buildings gain a 7.4% higher rental rate than the market average. Therefore, there is little doubt that poorly performing buildings are at a disadvantage as sustainable viability increasingly integrates with mainstream expectations.

Much of sustainable viability is common sense: excellence in sustainable viability is knowing how to refine it for optimum value. Operational systems that interact with a building is much like, for example, link the environmental controls to security systems that allow the environmental systems to know how many people are in a space at any one time, thus delivering the right level of air conditioning. This eliminates the over-resourcing of the HVAC system, thus saving energy. The St. Regis Hotel in Shanghai linked twelve sub-systems within the building controls management system and saw a 40% reduction in energy consumption.

So, think of the building within the “framework for sustainable viability.” See it as an eco-system and look at how the interdependent operational systems interact with the building to make efficiency effective. Think of the building’s use as part of a life cycle. Additionally, as both architectural and construction industries increasingly embrace sustainable viability, so more inclusive methods are being created to evaluate and reduce the environmental impacts of buildings. As a result, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is emerging as one of the most predominant assessment tools. An LCA helps architects and construction companies alike identify scenarios for the use of buildings during the design process and look ahead in measuring building supply, construction, use and end-of-use.

Hence, the greatest incentive for the use of LCA in the design process is the ability of an architect to demonstrate the increasing paybacks through better, more informed decision-making. And, as benchmarking becomes more established, such as that through JLL, they can be used for comparisons and inform on performance characteristics.

Moreover, with new legislation, such as ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) in the UK for example, to optimize efficiency and make it effective, it is important to understand the conspiring components that can destroy value, or when considered in a system, add value. For example, of energy consumption, what is considered operational energy is one component; the second is the embodied energy, which comes from the material manufacturing and construction phases of a building project. This has a material effect on efficiency of a building’s use and the balance sheet – these numbers often being hidden from sight.

It is therefore essential when developing a water, energy and materials conservation plan, to build it into the overall business planning and accountability processes. Otherwise you will lose sight of what adds value, and what destroys value. Additionally, taking such a holistic approach fosters a waste reduction attitude: it evokes systems thinking and can deliver innovative ideas for process, product and service enhancement to serve customers better, deliver new revenue streams and strengthen economic profit.

After all: sustainable viability really is just good design.

Christopher Gleadle is Principal of CMG Sustainable Viability and is an International Business Coach, Educator, Advisor, Mentor, Speaker and Writer on Sustainable Viability.

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