Whether you’re developing commercial or residential projects, tenants and future owners are increasingly prioritizing environmentally friendly features. To avoid falling behind the competition, you need to stay on top of the latest sustainable features. Here are four current trends to consider for your current and future building projects.
1. Smart Homes and Buildings
The Internet of Things (IoT) — meaning the networking of people, sensors and objects to automatically collect, exchange and apply data — isn’t new at this point. Today, full IoT integration is the expectation rather than a competitive advantage.
In homes, residents want more than energy-efficient appliances; they also want smart technologies for lighting, HVAC and security. Businesses also see the cost-cutting case for such technologies in their spaces, making them critical to tenant satisfaction and retention. Owners can use smart technologies to improve facility management and maintenance — and boost their bottom lines.
2. Net-Zero Energy
The World Green Building Council defines a net-zero carbon building as highly energy-efficient, with all remaining energy supplied by on-site or off-site renewable sources. The U.S. Department of Energy refers to zero-energy buildings as “an ambitious yet increasingly achievable goal that is gaining momentum across geographic regions and markets.”
California already has mandated that most new homes and multifamily residential buildings up to three stories include rooftop solar panels with an eye toward net-zero goals. It aims for all new residential construction to be net-zero by 2020 and for all new commercial construction by 2030. This may create a ripple effect across other parts of the country. No matter where you operate, net-zero initiatives could be on the horizon.
3. Sustainable Design
It’s much easier to reach net-zero energy consumption, or even just reduced consumption, when you think about sustainability from the beginning of a project. Solar and other cleaner power sources are an obvious start. And cool roofs with high-emittance coating reflect the sun and reduce the heat-island effect in dense urban areas.
You also could use “passive” solar, which takes advantage of a building’s site, climate and materials to minimize energy use. For example, when sunlight hits the building, its materials can reflect, distribute or absorb the radiation. Eaves can be designed to let sunlight in during the winter but block it during warmer months. Skylights and tubular daylighting devices can leverage the sun for lighting, too.
4. Green Building Materials
The materials you use can affect consumption, waste and energy usage. Incorporating recycled insulation, bamboo floors, porous pavement and electrochromic glass will make a difference for years to come.
Low-flow or dual-flush toilets have graduated from unusual to the norm in everything from public restrooms to homes. Some are as much as 20% more efficient than the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. The latest in toilet technology is waterless composting toilets that use natural processes to decompose waste into an odorless substance that can be added to gardens or combined with an outdoor compost pile.
The Future is Now
Sustainability in development is no longer an aspiration or a niche — it’s now closer to being a mainstream must-have, whether due to governmental or occupant imperatives. The good news is that many green measures, despite higher upfront costs, can help you build your profitability in the long term by cutting operating costs and increasing occupancy rates, rents and sale prices.
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