Commercial real estate goes green: Five ways an existing building can make improvements - by Ron Koenigsberg

July 04, 2017 - New York City
Ron Koenigsberg,
American Investment Properties

Going green has been a popular initiative for some time, but the commercial building sector had been slow to pick up the trend. However, now more commercial buildings are “going green” in a variety of ways, and are doing so for both financial and environmental benefits.

As people are becoming more economically responsible, clients and tenants are now seeking more eco-sustainable or “green” buildings or are requesting these types of upgrades and improvements to their current buildings. In the United States, there is a rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that sets the standards as far as green efficiencies go.

Let’s take a look at some statistics when comparing green buildings to commercial buildings in general. Eco-sustainable buildings cost less to maintain by 19% on average, use less energy by 25%, and less water by 11% on average. They also emit less carbon dioxide by 34% on average, and have more satisfied occupants by 27% on average.

Going green is a wise way to cut costs in operating office buildings, retail stores, manufacturing facilities and malls. Commercial buildings are one of the main energy consumption sources, and can become green in aspects such as heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, lighting, solar and water conservation. If you can’t make a commercial building green from the start, you can always take steps to retrofit an existing building.

Here are five ways in which an existing building can make improvements towards being more eco-sustainable.

1. Lighting: One of the ways commercial buildings are going green is through lighting. Light-emitting diodes, or LED light bulbs, are gaining significant momentum as alternatives to incandescent and fluorescent lighting in commercial buildings, particularly as the cost of LED lighting technology is going down. Updating old lighting to LED lighting save up to 75% of overall energy use.

2. Air: Improve overall air quality of a building by implementing more thorough cleaning practices, including dusting regularly with microfiber cloths, using eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and cleaning or replacing floor mats and rugs regularly. Taking this a step further, installing indoor hanging gardens or “living walls” also known as “biowalls” improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

3. Solar: Consider installing solar panels or solar window films. Solar window films reduce indoor temperature in order to cut cooling costs. Commercial solar installations have increased by 487% in the past five years and have reduced energy bills by as much as 90%.

4. Water: Conserve water by fixing leaks and installing low-flow fixtures. Some commercial builders take water conservation a step further and install a specific plumbing system designed to conserve water known as a dual plumbing or dual piping system. This system separates water into two types: potable and reclaimed.  Potable water is safe for drinking, cooking and washing while reclaimed water can be used for toilet plumbing or plant irrigation.

5. Heating & cooling: HVAC systems use more energy than anything else in a commercial building and air conditioning also results in tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Reduce overall energy consumption by 10% by simply turning down your heating and cooling system when you or your tenants are not in the building. There are also alternatives to traditional HVAC systems such as a chiller boiler system. Typical HVAC systems use forced air to heat and cool, but a chiller boiler system is hydronic, meaning that it uses water, which is more efficient because it provides even temperatures using radiant heat. These systems are attached to the water supply in the building.

Although the tasks of implementing sustainable efficiencies may at first sound like a financial burden, it is important to note that the costs would be recouped easily from more efficient operations resulting in lower operating costs. Green buildings have even proved to more than make up for the expenses with reduced energy and water bills, and operations and maintenance costs. And not only do green buildings save investors money over time, it could also allow for tax breaks, rebates, grants and other incentives in the future.

Ron Koenigsberg is the president of American Investment Properties, Garden City, N.Y.

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