Green office buildings are no longer a new concept. Not even a “concept”, but reality. And one of the strongest reasons why net zero office buildings have taken off is the competitive edge they offer.
Stats have shown it:
- Three-quarters of the real estate professionals interviewed in the Strategic Focus: Responding To ESG Disclosure Requirements In Real Estate research are already doing some kind of ESG reporting.
- 23% of them reducing costs is one of their key objectives for the next three years.
The amount of carbon emissions a company successfully avoids becomes one of its key profit pools.
This means that a paradigm shift has turned decarbonization from a threat and/or a discouraging challenge into an… opportunity to gain a competitive edge.
What competitive gains are we talking about more exactly?
Let’s pinpoint them one by one.
- Find out what are the main criteria for an office building to be certified as “green”
- Embracing net zero gives you a competitive edge: from reducing costs to attracting and retaining the right talent to building a positive brand image and corporate reputation
- Learn what are some of the best proactive steps you can start taking today to get closer to your net-zero workplace emissions goal
- Some companies have taken their commitment to a whole new level and are now boasting green office buildings with THE highest sustainability ratings in the world. Buildings that incorporate multiple environmentally-friendly systems designed to reduce their energy consumption and enhance their overall performance
What Are Green Office Buildings?
What makes an office building green?
And what does it mean to make a net zero commitment as an office building developer, owner, or facility manager?
Let’s answer the first question first:
A sustainable office building (or green office building) is designed with one key goal in mind: reducing the overall impact of the built environment on the natural environment and human health.
- using sustainable (reused, recycled, renewable) materials
- using resources efficiently (resources of water, energy, etc.)
- keeping waste and pollution and overall negative impact on the environment to a bare minimum
- protecting employees’ health and boosting their productivity
Now, while a green office building is designed to reduce its carbon emissions, net zero office buildings don’t add any new emissions to the atmosphere.
And that’s where the true competitive edge comes from.
It’s no longer a matter of putting together a strategy to balance emitting and capturing carbon.
But a way to avoid CO2 emissions in the first place.
Top 4 Benefits of a Green Office Building
In other words, what’s the business case for net zero office buildings? What are the competitive advantages of investing in sustainability?
Save Money and Increase Profit/Save on Energy Costs
First and foremost, the competitive edge you gain comes from the immediate operational savings you can expect.
And according to the same previously mentioned report, reducing costs is the no.1 priority for real estate investors and occupiers.
In this respect, green office buildings meet specific standards that guarantee lower heating, cooling, electricity, and water use.
It is estimated that buildings incorporating sustainable, environmentally-friendly designs can save at least 30% on energy costs. While lowering their CO2 emissions by 58.3%.
And it’s the overall lower energy use that will increase your competitive edge as a company and your return on sustainability investment.
With energy prices going off the roof, this is one of the most tangible economic reasons for embracing net zero as an organization.
Reduce your (highest) costs and make yourself more competitive.
As simple as that.
Attract the RIGHT Talent
With the “war for talent” still ongoing, your company’s health and well-being strategy is a valuable edge over your competition to attract the best people.
And your investment in a more sustainable office that these most-wanted candidates will be spending a lot of their working days in — with a huge impact on their health and overall well-being — is the best indicator for them that you value their health and well-being.
And a solid proof for the younger generation of talents that you’ve committed to contributing to the health of our planet.
Increase Your Employees’ Satisfaction, Loyalty, and Productivity
… and their learning abilities, too.
According to a Harvard study, working in a green office building has a positive impact on cognitive function. Which means better strategy-building skills, better crisis response, and better focus.
Another valuable competitive edge you gain from investing in a high-performance green office building is boosted productivity. Which, like the cost reduction benefit, can easily translate into profit gains.
How does a nearly net zero, sustainable work environment impact employee productivity more exactly?
It’s simple. By enhancing their comfort and satisfaction through:
- Better indoor air quality
- Outdoor views
- Better daylighting
- Reduced drafts
- Reduced floor-to-ceiling temperature stratification
- Exterior noise control
- Personal control over the workspace environment
And all these comfort enhancements that result from your efforts to make your office more sustainable convert into fewer sick days, happier, healthier, more loyal, more engaged, and more… productive employees.
Foster a Positive Brand Image and Reputation
According to the Global Sustainability Study, “50% of consumers rank sustainability as a top 5 value driver”.
By curating a sustainable brand image, you’re telling the world — potential business partners, employees, the talent you wish to attract, and clients — that you do care about reducing the impact of your operations on the environment.
And that you care about the well-being of your employees.
In turn, the very same “world” — with a similar perspective on the environment and the same climate-driven concerns — will choose you over your less sustainable and less environmentally-conscious competitors.
How to Make Your Office Building More Sustainable
We’ve tackled the “What” and the “Why”. Now it’s time to answer your “How” questions related to sustainability, too.
What are the top ways that you can get close to achieving a net zero carbon in your office building?
Here are the procreative and systematic steps you can start taking to reduce your office building’s carbon emissions:
Adopt a Passive Design Strategy
Facade design is critical for achieving a net zero office building.
And the greenest buildings use little to no artificial light.
Use the daylight index to maximize natural lighting and:
- ensure your employees the best possible daylight
- minimize heat loss
- … glazing areas
- … cooling loads
With an Ethernet-powered, LED connecting lighting you can ensure the optimal lighting for those employees working after sunset.
While your passive design facade strategy will help you ensure your building’s partial or even full natural ventilation. And limit the usage of mechanical systems for cooling in the summer and providing heat recovery in the colder seasons.
Look for Onsite Renewable Energy Storage Solutions
Opt for off-site renewable certified energy sources or on-site technologies to supply all the remaining energy.
Switch Over to LED and Smart Lighting Systems
OK, this might be the very first basic step in your strategy for a net zero office.
LED lights have proven to be oftentimes 10 times more efficient than bulbs.
While your daylight-dimming options and smart technologies available — that allow you to lighten up only those areas with occupants — come to support your “light-bulb moment.”
Lower Operational Energy Demand and Consumption
Committing to achieving a sustainable office means committing to constant and regular monitoring of your drivers of energy consumption.
In this respect, here are just a few solutions you can adopt for keeping your energy consumption down:
- Widen temperature set bands: allow your employees to use fans, corresponding clothing, and natural airflow to control their own comfort
- Focus on fabric measures to keep lighting, cooling, and heating demand as low as possible
- Replace conventional design standards and practices with alternative, more environmentally-friendly ones
Opt for a Solar and Green Roof to Reduce the Carbon Footprint
Solar PV means lower dependence on fossil fuels. Combine it with a green roof and its efficiency metrics improve.
All while providing you with free operational energy.
A simple and obvious step like installing low-flow aerators helps you save water in your office building.
Make Your Office Building… Smart
The right IoT technologies incorporated into your office building will allow you to monitor energy use and identify, in due time, any energy-use gaps and improvements you can make.
Invest in Sustainability Data Management and Reporting Software
What gets measured gets done, right?
So do think most of the respondents in the Verdantix report on ESG Disclosure Requirements In Real Estate: three-quarters of them are already doing some type of ESG reporting.
With 30% planning to invest more in upgrading their reporting software.
And when it comes to reporting tools to consider adopting, you’ll want to consider starting your prospecting with these 2 options:
- The carbon dashboard the hybrid work software YAROOMS provides you with
- The workplace emissions tracking features fully integrated into the same platform
Monitoring and reporting on your Scope 2 & Scope 3 CO2 workplace emissions and (actually) reaching your net-zero CO2 target has never been easier.
Real-Life Examples and Case Studies Green Office Buildings
Let’s talk real-life examples and case studies of net zero or close to net zero office buildings, shall we?
Here are 5 office buildings with the highest sustainability ratings in the world:
One Angel Square Manchester, United Kingdom
What helped it make it to this exclusive list?
- It boasts 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and 50% reduction in energy consumption (compared to the other commercial buildings in London)
- Its double-skinned facade and high thermal mass control help it cool and heat itself up
- It uses rapeseed (from local farms) to provide the buildings’ operating energy
- It‘s equipped with a rainwater harvesting system to lower its water consumption
- Its central hall is designed specifically to make the most of natural light and keep the usage of artificial lighting to a minimum.ph
The Edge – Amsterdam, Netherlands
From all the green office buildings on this list, The Edge boasts two records:
- THE highest BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)
- THE first business center equipped with a LED Ethernet lighting system
But the list of innovative techniques to reduce energy consumption and boost performance doesn’t stop here:
- it boasts a 4,100 m2 rooftop solar panels
- its previously mentioned LED Ethernet lighting system can be controlled by its occupants right from their smartphones
- it uses underground water for heating and cooling
- it uses reserved water for plant watering and toilet flushing
- it even has sensors for monitoring CO2 and temperature levels
Pixel – Melbourne, Australia
It sets itself apart from other sustainable office buildings with its:
- Rainwater collection system
- Its unique facade is made of double-glazed curtain walls, fixed shading louvers, solar panel shades
- Its large green roof
- Its LEED platinum certificate
Although small compared to the other green office buildings on this shortlist, Pixel’s building incorporates several environmentally-friendly systems aimed to boost its overall performance.
Powerhouse Kjørbo – Bærum, Norway
The Powerhouse Kjørbo is one of those net zero office buildings designed to produce more energy than it consumes.
And speaking of energy consumption, the building uses the geothermal system in the neighboring park for cooling and heating.
Here are some of the key systems and technologies it incorporates in this respect:
- a roof covered in solar panels to generate 41kWh/m2 per year
- energy-efficient lighting
- exteriors in carbonized wood
Bullitt Center – Seattle, USA
How did it make it to this exclusive selection of green office buildings?
- its rooftop is provided with photovoltaic cells capable to generate 230,000 kilowatt-hours every year, making it an energy-self-sufficient building
- it’s equipped with a rainwater harvesting system capable to collect 56,000 gallons of water
- it’s provided with 5 aerobic composters
Over to You Now…
You’re facing a new competitive paradigm now.
Traditionally, you’d achieve an edge over your competition exclusively through innovation and unique services/products.
But these days it’s your actions on climate change themselves that guarantee you that edge.
And it’s like a snowball effect:
- First, you commit to achieving net zero
- Then you start cutting down on your costs
- Next, you attract and retain the best talent in your industry
- And you grow more competitive
So, what’s the first action you’ll take to make your office building more sustainable and tap into the potential of this new “carbon currency”?