How to make a commercial building sustainable

How to make a commercial building sustainable Sustainable Architecture

As the UK works towards achieving its net zero emission target by 2050, making commercial buildings more sustainable becomes increasingly important.

The UK’s construction industry creates carbon emissions through energy use, water consumption and waste generation. In fact, the sector accounts for approximately 25% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, and while the Government strives to improve commercial building sustainability, pressure remains to mitigate issues by transitioning and adopting better practices, new technologies and policies.

Meanwhile, current Government Regulations coupled with consumer demand are driving businesses, property developers and architects to implement sustainable commercial building designs and greener technologies across the build environment. Indeed, Environmental Ministers recently called for a coherent trio of legally-binding targets (within the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Framework) to focus on eliminating greenhouse emissions and improving energy efficiency in construction.

Such actions are reinforced by a growing public demand for greener spaces and an appetite for retail spaces, offices and businesses to align and apply commercial building sustainability measures. This guide explains what constitutes a sustainable commercial building and the value in transforming architecture through sustainable commercial building design.

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Why should commercial buildings be more sustainable?

The UK is leading the way in its green building measures, developing new technologies and rolling out regular construction principles to promote sustainability in design. Since 2019, all new offices and retail spaces, for example, must adhere to energy efficiency standards that produce 75-80% less carbon emissions than previous requirements while the Construction Leadership Council via its CO2nstruct Zero Initiative wholeheartedly supports the Government’s sense of urgency to address climate issues.

Stricter building codes and reporting requirements encourage developers and investors to take sustainability into account. As regulations continue to tighten, the commercial sector is transitioning to more sustainable build designs and eco-friendly interiors. Additional policies aim to phase out fossil fuel heating systems in favour of electric or hydrogen alternatives.

Sustainable commercial buildings and designs are designed to reduce their environmental impact in a variety of ways. Energy efficiency can be incorporated by using LED lighting, installing solar panels, upgrading HVAC systems and implementing smart building automation that optimises energy usage. Water conservation can be achieved by installing low-flow plumbing fixtures, waterless urinals and other water-saving technologies, such as rainwater harvesting and irrigation.

In the UK, building materials to make a commercial building sustainable are recommended by BREEAM and include everything from recycled, locally-sourced and non-toxic products. Other green options like reclaimed wood, recycled steel and materials will be declared fit for use under BREEAM’s science-based framework verifies and certifies which materials are sustainable and fit to construct new builds, retrofits and refurbishments.

Construction quality and materials resilience prevents problems like leaks, drafts, and equipment failures that prompt renovations. Meanwhile, commercial buildings can reduce waste by providing recycling bins, establishing composting systems and conducting waste audits to cut down on products sent to landfills. Likewise, improving infrastructure and access to commercial buildings can help to make them greener, by building them near public transport, existing infrastructure and providing bike storage and EV charging units.

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What are sustainable commercial building designs?

Implementing sustainable designs can reduce the environmental impact of commercial buildings. At the early stages of a retrofit or build, look to make any sustainable decisions across the interiors and throughout commercial premises. Greener measures include optimising natural light and ventilation by well-postioned windows, doors and skylights. In addition, fit out halls, lighting units, and use smart tech and upgraded insulation and plumbing features for added sustainability.

Design flexibility can help so architects will advise builders and planners to install partition walls, modular furniture and adaptable layouts to allow for evolving commercial needs within a space. Durability of buildings ties into sustainability, so ensure a commercial premises and every material inside is designed, selected and fitted with longevity in mind. Likewise, ease of maintenance means fewer resources over the lifetime of the building.

Green roofs help manage stormwater runoff in urban areas through absorption and can also provide a natural filtration system and improve water efficiency. Furthermore, integrating gardens, living walls, green spaces and other nature elements improves wellbeing and connects the buildings to nature. Common recommendations may include adding insulation with modular wall solutions using durable and air-tight interlocking concrete blocks. Modular building techniques can help to seal air leaks, while other measures include upgrading old heating and cooling systems for newer high-efficiency models. Simply switching out lighting, old appliances, and plumbing fixtures to more efficient options also goes a long way.

How to retrofit sustainable commercial buildings?

It is possible to do a sustainable retrofitting of any commercial buildings. While new construction offers greater opportunity for comprehensive sustainable design, existing commercial buildings can also be retrofitted and upgraded to improve their environmental footprint. Conducting an energy audit will identify efficiency opportunities tailored to the building. Installing solar panels, wind turbines, and other onsite renewable energy systems can help minimise a building’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management is another area to address by providing ample recycling bins, composting, and reducing single-use items.

For more extensive retrofits, upgrades to ventilation, windows, walls, and roofing can dramatically improve insulation, air tightness, and passive solar gain. Likewise, for older commercial buildings, installing modern garage doors will improve insulation and energy efficiency. However, larger projects require greater upfront investment. Implementing even small operational changes or minor retrofits can pay dividends for energy, water, and waste reductions in existing buildings. Green fit-outs and tenant build-outs also present opportunities to improve sustainability.

How to use sustainable technologies in commercial buildings?

A variety of technologies exist to help make commercial buildings more sustainable across lighting, HVAC, water, materials, and renewable energy systems. For HVAC systems, heat recovery ventilation efficiently exchanges heat between outgoing and incoming air. High-efficiency HVAC equipment like variable refrigerant flow systems also help reduce energy usage. Zoned climate control systems with smart technology and sensors tailor heating and cooling to occupancy patterns.

As mentioned earlier, upgrading lighting is one of the most impactful steps. Switching to LED lighting slashes energy usage compared to traditional bulbs. Installing lighting sensors and smart systems that integrate with building controls can optimise lighting needs. Finally, onsite renewable energy from solar panels, wind turbines in urban areas, and geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling are all impactful sustainability measures.

Work with WindsorPatania for a sustainable commercial building design

WindsorPatania’s team of experts thrive on a challenge. We also see potential where others see impossibility. Embarking on the transformative journey of converting commercial spaces into residential havens might seem daunting, but WindsorPatania is dedicated to simplifying this process for our clients. We can redefine the future of your commercial property, from reimagining spaces to determining the suitability for development of your property as well as stepping into a green-life commitment.

Our sustainable commercial buildings are designed to reduce their environmental impact through energy efficiency, water conservation, reduced waste, and other measures.

Commercial spaces built well and under the guidance of professional architects will result in being healthy, productive spaces built with minimal harmful resources.

Book a free discovery call with us today and start the process of crafting your architectural masterpiece with our team of visionary architects and designers. Your imagination deserves nothing less.

This article was written in collaboration with our content team member Annie Button.

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