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4 Ways To Make Commercial Buildings Sustainable

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What goes into a green blueprint? What does it take to design sustainable commercial buildings? An eco-conscious architect has to answer these questions and others like them. They account for dozens of factors when drafting an office or industrial space to reduce its impact on the environment.

Fortunately, innovations in modern building practices have simplified architects’ responsibilities. New materials and technologies have given them the flexibility they need to develop plans that satisfy high standards of sustainability. They no longer need to make so many difficult compromises.

With advances in eco-friendly building materials, architectural films, renewable energy systems and green solutions, a better balance with the planet is possible. We’ll describe these advances in greater detail, taking a look at four of the recent changes in commercial design that show significant potential.

New Eco-Friendly Building Materials

Adoption of sustainable materials can reduce the impact of a commercial build, but these materials have to meet stringent criteria. They need to have a measurable impact on a structure’s energy efficiency. Creating a tight envelope that protects against the elements — while reducing expenditure — helps achieve this goal.

Pacific Bio-Foam is one such material on the market that shows promise for the future of sustainable design. It’s a plant-based polyurethane rigid foam just as effective as other insulators, but far less harmful for the environment, the most eco-conscious option among other products in its category.

Application of Architectural Films

A thin layer of architectural film is enough to reduce a company’s heating and cooling costs by a considerable margin. Applied to windows, it can keep out a high percentage of the sun’s heat, allowing for streamlined regulation of a building’s interior temperature. The benefits don’t end there, however.

Beyond the effect of architectural film on energy savings and CO2 emissions, it also has protective properties which deflect ultraviolet rays. These rays can damage the furniture and flooring in a workspace, taking a visible toll as they fade the material and leave it looking dull, worn and aged.

Prefabricated Construction Methods

Traditional construction can be incredibly wasteful. It’s an energy-intensive process with a poor track record for efficiency, prolonging the strain that industrial waste and CO2 emissions have on the environment.

Luckily, modular construction has been on the rise. Whether entire buildings are being prefabricated or the materials themselves, this process lets builders have more control over the construction process. Precast concrete, for example, is created entirely in a factory setting that produces little waste and has almost no negative impact on air quality. Even better, it can be made from recycled materials, thus reducing the demolition waste traditional construction is known to create.

Prefabrication allows builders to cut back on time, money and a project’s environmental impact. As this industry grows, sustainable commercial buildings will increasingly be built using materials that are created in a safe, controlled environment.

Renewable Energy Infrastructure

Electricity is a basic need, fundamental to a company’s ability to operate. That said, a business no longer has to depend on traditional sources of energy, and they can transition from fossil fuel toward renewable resources with an upgrade to their infrastructure. Solar panels are an accessible example.

Solar energy is clean and cost-effective, reducing a company’s carbon emissions and utility bill. If they collect enough excess energy, they can even sell it back to their provider to earn a profit. Both commercial and residential buildings have made incredible use of this technology.

Integration of Green Solutions

Researchers at Purdue University have developed the Biowall, which is a botanical air filter that reduces CO2 and removes VOCs. The contaminants within a commercial building flow through the plants, and microbes in the root zone metabolize harmful compounds that cause headaches, coughing, fatigue and other symptoms of poor air quality.

Buildings can save up to 25 percent in HVAC energy use by integrating a Biowall, and there are other advantages. These filters also ease the exchange between indoor and outdoor air. This releases trapped irritants from carpeting, fabrics and machines that would linger in an air-tight room.

A Future of Sustainable Commercial Buildings

It starts with improved building practices, moving away from traditional methods toward green alternatives. New eco-friendly materials, architectural film and other solutions all contribute to a brighter future. It’s no longer such a difficult task to design sustainable commercial buildings.

That said, it’s a shared responsibility, and the public has to show an interest in preserving the environment. As long as everyone does their part, achieving a better balance with the planet is more than possible — it’s probable.

Holly Welles is a real estate writer with an interest in environmentally-friendly projects. She also has a passion for helping fellow millennials make the most out of homeownership. You can read her latest tips on her blog, The Estate Update, and follow her on Twitter @HollyAWelles.

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