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Sustainability in commercial real estate

It is a complex practice aimed at creating and maintaining conditions that will promote a prolonged existence of human beings. It involves production practices that do not exhaust resources that future generations will need for survival. For instance, the paper production industry can become sustainable by finding ways to keep manufacturing paper without exhausting trees that the human race will need in the future for various reasons. Various industries have recently joined the sustainable wagon, including the real estate industry. The commercial real estate industry can become sustainable by changing the way they operate and provide their services.

Sustainability in commercial real estate

Measures that the real estate industry can implement to become sustainable:

1. Green Electricity

Green electricity is a clean form of energy or heat that is produced without causing any environmental pollution. This green energy technology can be applied in commercial real estate as a mode of promoting sustainable energy production. Most forms of green energy are generated through natural sources of energy present on the environment. These natural sources are friendly to the environment because they do not feature any harmful emissions. Green sources of energy are also sustainable because they are produced by nature and the earth.

Examples of green electricity

One of the most common type of green energy is solar power. The source of solar power is the sun. The fact that the sun is a continuous and renewable source of heat light and energy. The light from the sun can be used to produce a clean source of energy. Installing solar panels is the easiest way that the real estate industry can promote sustainable energy. However the initial costs for the investment needs to be taken into consideration and the energy can be stored in batteries (rather small scale) for later use when the sun is not up.

Another source of green electricity is wind. Wind power may not be as popular as solar power, but it is also an incredible source of green electricity. Wind can be used to spin turbines in the process of producing electricity. The downside to this type of energy is that wind is not as consistent as the sun. For this reason, wind energy is not as common. Regardless, the real estate industry can still benefit from wind power (e.g. provided energy supply companies).

Contrary to popular knowledge, hydroelectric power is also a form of renewable energy. It is produced by using falling water as a source of kinetic power for spinning turbines and is the most common form of green energy in the world. It, therefore, is can easily be bought from energy supply companies.

2. Using sustainable water systems

The main common source of water is the surface. The surface supplies fresh water. However, the freshwater from the surface is limited and not equally distributed across the globe. Additionally, some of the surface water doesn’t meet drinking quality. Groundwater is also very common, but it is not as sustainable because the supply is set to decline over a while.

The real estate industry can become sustainable is by employing the use of sustainable water supply. Sustainable water systems can help to provide enough water to cater for certain needs without compromising on the future. Some examples of sustainable water systems include waterless toilets and car washes. Such systems help to eliminate the stress on water sources.

Commercial real estate companies can employ the use of water from dams instead of regular surface water. By sustaining the naturally existing surface water, aquatic life like fish and plants can be rescued from pending doom in case the water source runs dry. Other ways of promoting sustainability in water include;

  • Harvesting rainwater- while this may not be possible throughout the year, installing systems for harvesting rainwater can help to store large amounts of water to be used later. Note that the water needs to be stored properly to prevent contamination and make it safe for future use. Real estate companies can have water harvesting systems installed in homes to promote sustainable water supply.
  • Reclaimed water- using reclaimed or recycled water is also an incredible way of promoting sustainable water practices. It helps to reduce stress on the primary sources of water. Installing water recycling systems in buildings can help to make this possible.
  • Desalinisation of water- this is the process of eliminating salt from saline water to make it suitable for drinking and other uses. Doing so helps to eliminate the stress on freshwater sources. The world is mostly covered with water. However, most of this water is found in the ocean, and it is salty. By practising desalinisation, you can increase the use of saltwater hence preserve freshwater sources and the life dwelling within them.

3. Clean air

In offices and shopping centers the facility management needs to take care about ventilation, use of filters and clean air-conditioning in order to ensure clean air in an environmentally sustainable way. Especially during these corona times.

Furthermore real estate, through things like household heating and waste management, plays a significant role in promoting air pollution. Real estate companies can help to solve this issue and promote clean air by developing systems for waste management and coming up with sustainable household heating. This can be done by eliminating the need or use of coal and wood as a source of household heating because the emissions from such applications result in a lot of pollution. Instead, systems that use renewable energy can be applied in the place of coal and wood.

4. Sustainable construction

Real estate companies can also become sustainable by changing up their construction practices. Also known as green construction, sustainable construction is aimed at reducing negative economic, social and environmental impacts of construction. Sustainable buildings are designed and constructed in such a way that they are healthy for the people living or working in them. They are designed to reduce pollution, waste and provide energy efficiency. Green construction also involves using sustainable materials in the construction of the buildings. This includes using materials from renewable sources like wood. Note that renewable materials are those that can be recycled or reused. It also involves the use of materials that improve the efficiency of the buildings. Using local materials is also an incredible way to practice green construction. Saving money for future use in the process of construction also falls in the category of practising sustainable construction.

Corona measures in the real estate industry

The covid-19 pandemic has affected most, if not all kinds of industries, including the real estate market. Like other industries, real estate practitioners have to include some corona measures in their operations. These measures include testing all their employees before they go to work. Another measure is making sure that all equipment is sanitised often. The industry also has to make sure that employees do not share tools so that they can prevent the transmission of the virus. Using protective gear like masks is also an important corona measure.

Importance of office buildings after corona

The importance of office buildings is bound to decline after the pandemic. This is because most people have grown accustomed to working from home. Most people have also established home offices which eliminate the need for office buildings where they have to pay rent. However, this does not completely make office buildings obsolete. They are important because;

  • They help to foster more productivity because of the lack of distractions
  • They are less stressful
  • They are promoting socialisation
  • They promote mental health because of human interaction

Conclusion

Sustainable practices in the commercial real estate industry offer a lot of benefits. First, they help to save money that can be put to better use. They also help to reduce negative impacts on the economy, environment and society. Contact us to identify and implement measures and to report them in corporate reporting.

By Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Europe, focusing on top-management consultancy, projectmanagement, corporate reporting and fundingsupport. Dr. Georg Tichy is also trainer, lecturer at university and advisor on current economic issues.

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