Design has come a long way from being viewed as gimmicky features that only provide short term benefits. In this article, we’ve rounded up the top six drivers for sustainable design:

1. Financial
The operating costs of a sustainable building are much less than a traditional building. The Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) by the Whole Building Design Guide can help stakeholders determine whether the incorporation of a high-performance HVAC or glazing system, for example, would dramatically reduce operating and maintenance costs even though the initial cost of these greener alternatives is more.

Initial costs of a building, which include land acquisition, construction, renovation and the equipment needed to operate the facility are often seen as the bulk of a building’s costs, but the operation and maintenance of a building equal 80% over the asset lifecycle. This is why clients need to be made aware of the long-term financial benefits of investing in energy saving initiatives, sustainable design as well as intelligent building systems that can help them save on operational, maintenance and repair costs.

Sustainable buildings have been proven to deliver better returns than their non-green counterparts. The Building Better Returns report (2011) found that Green Star-rated buildings in Australia deliver a 12% “green premium” in value and a 5% premium in rent when compared to non-rated buildings.

2. Employee health and wellness
The operational costs of a building equal 80% over the asset lifecycle. Of that 80%, the largest expenditure is occupants. A report by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) found that increased indoor environment and regulated temperatures increase productivity by 10%. Not only is this a significant financial benefit for many companies, but sustainable buildings also help companies attract and retain talent. In an era where the race for top talent is on, creating environments where people want to work is becoming increasingly important to companies.

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3. Environmental
The US General Service Administration’s Assessing Green Building Performance (2008) found that green buildings consume 26% less energy than the average building and generate 33% lower greenhouse gas emissions. According to the US Green Building Council’s Green Building Economic Impact Report, the energy savings from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings amount to more than 1.3 million tons of coal equivalent each year, representing approximately 78 million tons of averted carbon dioxide emissions.

Even relatively small green features of a building can have a significant impact on the environment. A planted roof, for example, can reduce the environmental impact of a building by reducing pollution from the building’s power usage, the city’s heat island effect and storm water runoff, which in turn can reduce water pollution. Considering the larger environmental impact on a city’s urban infrastructure is a way for designers and companies to contribute to global environmental goals.

4. Customer experience
Smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to change how real estate owners and tenants use and optimise their spaces. IoT enables a new level of visibility of consumption and usage so that spatial use and well-being can be optimised. Not only can spatial optimisation increase rental ability, it can improve the experience that a real estate owner is able to offer clients as it enables the control of internal environments and enhances the occupancy experience.

According to an article by Deloitte entitled Smart buildings: How IoT technology aims to add value for real estate companies, companies have already moved beyond a focus on cost reduction and are using IoT applications to dramatically improve tenant relationships, identify new revenue generation opportunities and design more efficient building operations. Sensors in shopping malls, for instance, can be used to help owners connect directly to and offer services to end customers. This could lead to building relationships with customers as well as strengthening tenant engagement.

5. Social acknowledgement and fiscal responsibility
GBC Australia’s Valuing Green (2008) report found that green buildings attract better quality tenants, such as government and ‘top tier’ corporates with stable businesses and strong commitments to corporate social responsibility.

Green buildings provide a bricks-and-mortar demonstration of an organisation’s commitment to fiscal responsibility – something that is increasingly important in both the public and private sectors. Peter Slattery, of Australian law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery, says that operating from a Green Star-rated building has strengthened his firm’s green credentials and demonstrated its commitment to fiscal responsibility.

“The energy efficiency of the building is obviously very important. Our clients expect us to operate an efficient business from a cost perspective,” said Peter.

6. Legislative
Tighter environmental legislation and the price on carbon are growing concerns for many real estate owners. While many sustainable design features are still optional, governments across the globe are increasingly taking a more prominent role in the built environment and looking for ways to make new buildings more sustainable. Implementing green features may have a number of important business drivers, but in the future, they could be part of our legislation. Certain legislation, such as the SANS XA and SANS 204, is already changing the way we design and build, and one can expect that legislation will become even more stringent in the future.

Specialised tip: Green buildings attract better quality tenants, such as government and ‘top tier’ corporates with stable businesses and strong commitments to corporate social responsibility.

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