Sustainability: From low-hanging fruit to cutting edge 

February 12, 2020 | By: Molly Looman
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Sustainability can sometimes feel like a nebulous goal. People throw the word around a lot, but it seems overwhelming to tackle an entire sustainability project at once. While large scale changes can have social and economic benefits, starting small can also provide valuable returns. No matter where you are in your sustainability journey, there are feasible moves at every stage.  

Dip a Toe In 

There is low hanging fruit when starting the sustainability process: a recycling program; switch out older lightbulbs for LEDS; go as digital as possible to eliminate paper products. There are many tiny changes that can be made to a commercial space to make it more sustainable that are  worth the price.  

Other lower commitment sustainability practices are education. Perhaps put out memos to your tenants about water waster, electricity use or green cleaning.  Involving your tenants will not only give them a feeling of being on a team, but also ensure that a majority of the property is on board even those where you do not control day to day operations.  

Wade in the Water 

The next step-up involves the installment of systems. Detector and analyzing systems are great for tracking energy use and for monitoring it automatically. Installing smart lights with detectors in them can lead to positive sustainability practices such as: turning the lights off when occupancy is 0, dimming the lights in low-traffic areas, or providing daylighting that is shown to increase worker productivity.  

On the theme of smart devices, smart HVAC can be another technologically driven way to increase sustainability in your property. Smart HVAC uses sensors to adjust temperatures based on occupancy and monitor air filtration. Both things can lead to lower energy costs and a better standard of living for your tenants.  

 Resiliency is also a recurring rend in the sustainability conversation. A property’s ability to come back after disaster is a key part of its sustainability. Using renewable energy and less fossil-fuel materials has shown to increase a building’s resiliency.  

Composting is another way to increase sustainability that involves a bit more investment than recycling. However, many cities have composting organizations that will help you set up a program for your commercial property. Same with food and electronic waste management.  

Full Dive 

If you want to be on the cutting edge of CRE sustainability, there is a world of experimental tactics that may have major return on their investment.  

Several property groups have begun hosting beehives on their properties. Not only does this provide a unique tenant experience, but it contributes to the suitability of the ecosystem surrounding the property. Beehives are relatively cheap to set up and maintain. If you have a property well suited for a beehive or even a rooftop garden, this may be a great bold move into the sustainability world.  

Solar energy is another big move into sustainability that has shown to cut down costs in the long run. Installing solar power is location dependent and may be more appropriate for a new build or smaller property, but retrofits are happening all over the country.  

Sustainability is no longer a boutique interest. It is becoming a want from tenants and a sound financial move. According to the World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report, green buildings are 14% less costly to run than traditional buildings and worth 7% more. While a large scale sustainability project may not be feasible at the moment, there are lots of ways to scale up and get involved in a movement that pleases both tenants and stakeholders.