Modern trends in construction are increasingly leaning toward sustainable building design. Inspired by news of global climate conditions, unstable oil prices, and the need for energy independence, architects are incorporating earth-friendly features in nearly every new building. But what does that leave for owners of existing structures? Concepts of sustainable development are often geared toward new construction. But retrofitting your building with sustainability in mind can start you on a path toward more responsible stewardship and greater financial benefits.
Full Scale Retrofit
Whether implementing a gradual green upgrade to an existing building or undertaking a massive, full scale retrofit, there are countless options on how to spare the environment and decrease your corporate impact on the earth. Many business owners are inspired by the potential savings afforded them through energy-efficiency measures and government incentives. However, a 2008 study showed that corporate environmental commitment topped the list of motivators for making green improvements.
This increased corporate responsibility has increased demand and accessibility of sustainable construction as delivered by organisations such as Warm Wales. Sustainable architecture has become the standard by which all design is measured. Green materials, such as bamboo floorboards and cork cubicle dividers, are readily available to the wider market. Water conscious low-flow plumbing has become common, and climate-based landscaping is extending its reach beyond drought-plagued regions.
The definition of sustainable development is simple. It is the use of available materials to serve existing human needs while ensuring that those needs will still be met in years, decades, and centuries to come. Broken down, this means that clear cutting forests for timber, harvesting fossil fuels from the earth, and producing mass amounts of waste lead to a depleted earth, perishing resources, and a damaged environment. By choosing recycled materials, and utilizing products which are derived from renewable resources, we limit our effect on the earth and ensure there will be ample resources for future generations.
When a business owner makes the decision to update their building with sustainability in mind, it can be a mind-boggling prospect. Where does one begin? Start small. Begin by replacing damaged or non-working materials with greener options. When the exit signs burn out, replace them with recyclable, zero-energy photo luminescent emergency exit signs. When the lunchroom refrigerator breaks down, purchase a modern, energy rated appliance. Install timers on existing lights to cut power use by up to 50%. Step by step, the older building can be upgraded to an environmentally friendly structure.
While ethical motives lead to increased interest in sustainable building design, cash savings cannot be ignored. Often, eco-minded updates to a structure translate into immediate financial incentives and long-term cost reduction in areas such as power, water, and waste. Whatever your reasons, exploring the benefits of sustainable design is the way of the future. It is the means to a cleaner environment, increased property values, and a commendable legacy for the generations.