5 Green Trends in Commercial & Residential Buildings

Date: 08/08/2017


Business Brokers, Commercial and Residential Realtors and all professionals involved in the construction, buying, selling or leasing of a space already know that a building or property that has green and energy efficient features is a competitive differentiator and a strong selling point.  Reap the financial benefits of building or converting to green, gain significant credibility and watch operating costs decrease with any adoption in these green trends.  

1) Solar Panels

The International Energy Agency predicts that 662 GigaWatts of solar energy will be produced by 2035, however, many experts believe that this estimate is conservative. The largest floating solar power plant located in China is generating renewable energy.  India is also poised as becoming a global leader in harnessing the sun for energy and recently dedicated another three trillion towards its solar power capacity.   Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla, famous for self-driving cars and ones that run on battery) is also the chairman of SolarCity – a company that employs satellite-Earth imaging to enable fast and more accurate quotes in guiding decisions on solar panel installations.  "Solar power [with] batteries will be the primary (not exclusive) means of sustainable energy production," Musk says. He believes "quite strongly that solar power will be the single largest source of electricity generation by the mid-point of the century.”  

2) Energy Storage Improvements

Another key technology that is transforming the energy economy is battery storage. Capturing solar energy during the day with high-capacity batteries capable of storing it for longer periods of time has already seen very meaningful results.  Some figures quote it as high as a 50%+ reduction over the past four years.  Within 10 years it is predicted that batteries that can store enough power for an entire building will be as common as solar panels. Demand to produce these energy-saving batteries will lead manufactures to increase production, which will drive the price down making them more common and affordable.  “Innovations in electric vehicles and cell phones have also reduced the cost and size while increasing the storage capacity of chemical batteries, most commonly lithium-based. Tesla, the electronic vehicle producer, recently announced a Tesla Power wall that costs about $3,000 but would allow customers to run their homes overnight with energy stored during the day. As the technology gains widespread interest, costs will fall.” Source: Christopher Stephens from the Herald Bulletin

3) Sustainable Building Materials

Ideally, materials used for construction projects are environmentally friendly, sustainable and cost-efficient.  Bamboo fits all of these criteria.  Surprising facts about bamboo tress (technically a grass): one of the fastest growing plants, needs no pesticides or irrigation, does not require planting as stalks can be cut and they will continue to grow, has a vast root system network that constantly sprouts new shoots and has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete.  Bamboo which is often used for flooring and walls is anti-bacterial and water resistant. Hardwood floors can stain or deteriorate when moisture comes into contact, is more expensive and does the have the regenerative qualities of bamboo.  Recycled wood, recycled rubber, coconut palm, paper insulation panels and many more materials are gaining increasing attention as uses in viable construction.
“Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” Biomimicry  The microbiologist Henk Jonkers invented “self-healing concrete” based on the action are bodies take when a bone is broken.  “Osteoblast cells produce minerals that create the structure of new bone, turning fragments back into a whole.” He embeds the concrete with capsules of limestone-producing bacteria, either Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii, along with calcium lactate. When the concrete cracks, air and moisture trigger the bacteria to begin munching on the calcium lactate. They convert the calcium lactate to calcite, an ingredient in limestone, thus sealing off the cracks.”  Source: Smithsonian-self-healing-concrete  Concrete, the world’s most common construction material, can now be more durable, longer-lasting, more sustainable and require less maintenance.  


4) Building Design 

Daylighting is a term used to describe buildings that utilize available sunlight for maximum efficiency, reduce or eliminate reliance on electric sources for light and create a more visually stimulating and productive environment for occupants.  Daylighting systems are a series of integrated components that utilize building orientation, room dimensions, skylights, window placement and shading to collect and direct natural light into interior spaces. Daylighting has been cited for its ability to increase health and performance in workplaces, retail stores, schools etc. This technique also allows for optimal amounts of natural light to minimize heating and cooling costs as another way to reduce energy consumption and cut costs. A building design feature that has aesthetic appeal and adds value is called a green roof or an eco-roof. It could be covered with plants, trees or other landscaping material, a place where solar panels or other natural energy collectors are placed and may even be designed to collect rainfall. 

List of Potential Benefits according to EcoLife

Filter the air and water

Produce oxygen, absorb heat and carbon dioxide

Provide shade which helps to minimize the impact of the urban heat island effect and reduces the building’s air conditioning requirements, which in turn reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels for cooling

Absorb rainwater which reduces storm water runoff

Provide leisure and recreational space for building occupants and the local community

Insulate the building against external sound

Utilized to grow local produce

Protect existing roofing, which reduces the number of replacements required and roofing waste

5) Green Certifications

According to the Green Building Council: “LEED-certified buildings with lower operating costs and better indoor environmental quality are more attractive to a growing group of corporate, public and individual buyers. High performing building features will increasingly enter into tenants' decisions about leasing space and into buyers' decisions about purchasing properties and homes.”  Projects at different phases of the building lifecycle include design, construction, operations and maintenance and can earn one of four levels of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum) by achieving a given number of point-based credits within the rating system.  Energy Star is another trusted environmental label that has brand recognition.  

Reasons to Pursue an Energy Star Certification by Energy Star.gov

Higher Income and Increased Rental Value

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Higher Occupancy Rates 

Lease to Federal Tenants (a mandate for federal agencies)

Hedge against future mandates

Lower Operating Costs

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