Key sustainability trends in commercial property

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Targeted sustainability initiatives in commercial property can deliver important environmental benefits. We check in with our expert property professional to find out more.

Whether you’re looking to invest in a new Green Star-rated building or retrofit an existing commercial property, adopting sustainability measures can help you save costs and help the environment. We spoke to Matt Nichols, managing director at Nichols Crowder, to uncover the key trends.

According to Nichols, three sustainability measures drive the biggest environmental and cost benefits for commercial real estate: reducing electricity use, window glazing and air-conditioning efficiency. “Most other sustainability items are not cost-efficient or are just token gestures,” he says.

*Powering up *

The easiest and cheapest way to reduce electricity use is to install LED lighting, which will pay back its cost in around two-and-a-half years. Nichols has converted his entire Melbourne office to LED, and has seen a substantial reduction in power costs.

Solar is also an option to reduce electricity use. “My plan to make our office 100 per cent reliant on solar is well progressed.” But Nichols adds that selling back power to the electricity companies isn’t as cost-effective. “Solar continues to become cheaper if you are using most of the power yourself.”

Glazing over

Appropriate window glazing is a key sustainability initiative, according to the Victorian Government’s Department of Health. It not only improves overall well-being for occupants, but also reduces commercial property operation costs.

Nichols says that although window glazing has improved dramatically over the last few years, the older windows create enormous heat loads. To combat this, he suggests upgrading windows facing north and west, which will have an immediate impact on reducing heat (and cold) in the commercial space. “In turn, this will reduce air conditioning costs and the number of units required.”

Cooling down

Air conditioning uses a considerable amount of energy in a commercial property, especially for older buildings with original units, according to Nichols. “Melbourne has many suburban office buildings built in the 1980s, which will be forced to upgrade.” However, improvements in air conditioning systems mean that upgrading to energy-efficient options is environmentally and economically worthwhile – consider refurbishing existing units to reduce the overall capital cost.

According to the Green Building Council of Australia, another easy way to make your building more sustainable is to simply ensure windows can be opened. “Passive design is often the unsung hero of green buildings,” says Richard Palmer, associate director at WSP Built Ecology.

Nichols agrees: “The ability to open the windows is important, as there will be many days the air conditioning is not required.”

A greener future

In addition to these three key factors, Nichols says the most sustainable solution for commercial space is to actually work close to home. “If we don’t need to drive on the roads as much or buy fuel, and instead travel on public transport to reduce electricity costs, there will be less infrastructure costs and a major sustainable benefit.”

While the initial costs of green design can be high, the longer-term benefits of lower operating costs and a more sustainable future create a compelling case – for everyone in Australia. If you’re ready to learn more, search online for the perfect sustainability fit.