Why new buildings should be green

Environmental awareness has never been higher. Thanks to a stream of news articles, books and emotionally-charged television shows, the public cares more about environmental concerns than ever before – and they’re ready to reward businesses who share this outlook. At the same time, making a switch to greener techniques and technologies can lead to enormous efficiency savings, which benefit business directly.

How Green can we get?

The term ‘green’ isn’t an absolute description. Clearly, some buildings are a little bit green, and others are a lot. We can make an existing building more energy efficient by, for example, insulating its walls, and installing solar panels on the roof.

An ideal building is one that is entirely energy-efficient, without burning fossil fuels onsite. In some cases, such a building might even provide energy storage or load management to relieve strain on the wider grid.

Modifying an existing building can be cheaper than building a new one – at least, in the short run. However, advances in modern construction techniques and technologies mean that new-builds can achieve levels of greenness which older ones cannot reach. For example, if you were looking to swap the windows in your listed inner city offices with xenon-filled triple glazing, you might find that planning restrictions prevent you from doing so. Build something new from scratch, on the other hand, and you’ll be able to build the green ethos into every architectural decision.

Naturally, there’s a balance to be struck between the two approaches. Consequently, developers will work with real-estate firms like Avison Young when determining which best suits their green needs.

What are the benefits of greenness?

The green approach confers a range of benefits, which broadly fall into three categories. There are environmental benefits, there are economic ones, and there are social ones.

Environmental benefits are perhaps the most obvious. Every time we create energy, we place a burden on the environment in the form of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. By reducing demand for energy, we can reduce the emissions. The same applies to a business’s demand for water and other natural resources: the less we use, the less our impact.

Economic benefits are also quite straightforward. Electricity, water and gas all cost money. Any step that we can take to reduce our consumption will therefore save money. According to a report by the European Commission released in 2015, we can save several hundred billion euros globally by making the switch to greener operating practices.

The social benefits of greenness are more difficult to quantify, and thus they don’t feature as prominently when the time comes to make decisions on spending. Think of the health benefits to workers in an environment where the air is less polluted. Absenteeism will decline, and the workers who do show up will be more productive. Perceived greenness can also have a positive impact on a given firm’s public image!

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