In the wake of the recent COP 26 summit and the nod towards encouraging businesses to go green in the latest budget set by Rishi Sunak, efforts to try to reduce climate change have never been more in focus.
Despite the obvious changes that we can all make to our personal lives as an individual to reduce our own carbon footprints, save energy, and create a more sustainable world, there is plenty that can be done on a commercial level.
Of course, businesses can implement processes and procedures and change their behaviour to become more eco-friendly, but there is also a range of steps that can be taken with regards to your commercial property that can also help. As commercial organisations are put under increasing pressure to become greener these kinds of steps will likely become more important as we head towards our target of net-zero.
Having a greener commercial building is beneficial for a number of different reasons. Firstly, and primarily, it is better for the planet, helping to slow down the effects of climate change. In addition to this, it is a good look for your business and something that you can promote to attract new customers. It can also save you money, cutting down wastage, especially of energy and water.
With all of this in mind, here are six ideas that can be used to help to turn your commercial property more eco-friendly.
For businesses that use a lot of halogen lighting, energy bills can be astronomical. The benefits of introducing as much natural light as possible have been well documented – both in terms of employee mental health and employee productivity, but also relating to the amount of energy that is being used. Boosting your natural light is generally a case of having large windows, skylights, and encouraging employees not to draw curtains or blinds.
Of course, in the UK it is not always possible to rely on the natural light from outside, but by substituting energy-gobbling halogen lightbulbs with low energy or LED lights, you can save up to 25% on your energy bills.
2 Passive Solar Designs
Whilst we all understand the benefits of fitting photovoltaic solar panels – panels that take energy from the sun and convert it into usable energy within the property – these are not always possible in a commercial property. In a passive solar design system, parts of the building – its roof, walls, windows, and floors, are designed so that they collect and store, then distribute the energy from the sun throughout the building.
Although passive design systems are most commonly applied to new-build commercial (and non-commercial) buildings, there are often some aspects of it that can be retrofitted to an existing building.
In a passive solar system, several environmental factors are examined to get the most impact from them naturally, such as the position of the sun and natural shade.
3 Electrochromic Glass
Electrochromic glass is a type of glass that can be used in windows, otherwise known as ‘smart glass’. This is a new version of ‘glass’ that uses thin pieces of ceramic and nanotechnology to give occupants more control over the amount of light that can get in through the windows. In other words, they can help you to control the interior environment of the building.
For example, on a hot summer’s day, the electrochromic glass can be used to become more opaque, reducing the amount of light and heat that comes into the building, reducing the need for air-conditioning. Likewise, on a bright winter’s day, a maximum amount of sunlight can be allowed to enter the building, not only giving people valuable natural light but also helping to warm the building up.
The control over the electrochromic glass is held by the occupant, meaning the ideal environment can be created, using minimal energy.
4 Living Walls and Green Roofs
It is becoming increasingly important to create green spaces, especially in our cities. We are losing green land, which is important not only for absorbing CO2 in the air but also for the eco-systems and habitats for essential flora and fauna.
Living walls and green roofs are areas of nature that are encouraged on the walls and roofs of commercial buildings. This means planting green gardens on the outside of the building, allowing nature to flourish. These green walls and roofs can not only help to absorb carbon dioxide and boost nature, but they can also improve air quality, help to collect rainwater and reduce the risk of flooding and make the area a nicer place to be in general.
5 Indoor Green Areas
With similar benefits to the outside living walls and green roofs, you could consider more plants inside the commercial building. This area can be effective in improving the internal air quality as well as being useful to help to reduce stress – and making the workplace look good!
In the wake of COVID-19, ensuring that there is good ventilation in the building is vitally important. Air filtration systems can also be important to make sure that you have good air quality (benefitting productivity and employee mental health).
6 Dual Plumbing Systems
It is surprising how much water can be used in a commercial property – especially if many people are using it. Dual plumbing systems separate the water use in the building into potable and reclaimed water. This means that drinking water, for example, will not be used to flush toilets.
With a dual plumbing system, you can separate the water that must be clean and drinkable – for drinking, washing hands, or in the kitchen, for example, and the water that needn’t be drinkable – the water used to flush toilets or water plants, for example. Reclaimed water can be collected rainwater or recycled drinking water, reducing water wastage, and saving money.
With a greater focus on building a more sustainable future for the planet, businesses are increasingly going to be encouraged to contribute to the worldwide effort. By incorporating some of these ideas both now in retrofitting existing buildings, but also in future commercial property projects, we can start to make a real difference.