“Although they are not taking it for granted, forward-thinking developers, owners, and tenants have started treating sustainability as a given — they simply assume that maximizing sustainability is part of their brief,” states a new report from Philips on “living” smart buildings.
The report considers the development of attitudes towards sustainable building. Namely how the evolution of green buildings is not only reducing energy consumption but also enhancing quality of life of buildings occupants as well as creating cost savings and productivity gains which are positively impacting building owners bottom lines.
According to the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, “sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity. Companies aiming for sustainability need to perform not against a single, financial bottom line but against the triple bottom line.”
While energy efficiency, cost reduction, and green building certification remain important goals, future office designs also take employee health and happiness into consideration. Eric Ubels, Chief Technology Officer at OVG, the leading real estate developer in the Netherlands, puts it this way: “Since 2004, we have only built sustainable buildings, even if the client doesn’t want it. But it’s not just about sustainability. It’s about comfort, it’s about intelligence, and more important it’s about the health of people in those buildings.”
Flexible workspaces, app-based access to building information and services, and responsive environments can increase employee productivity, reduce employee stress, improve cognitive function, and encourage collaboration and creativity. Leading sustainable buildings such as The Edge, in Amsterdam, are using LED-based connected lighting systems, for example, to create a “digital canopy” that can deliver an entire range of advanced applications.
“Sensors, integrated within the light fittings and distributed throughout the illuminated space, can give businesses rich data on occupancy patterns, energy usage, and various aspects of the indoor environment, such as light levels, carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and humidity. Building managers can use this data to adjust and fine-tune the delivery of resources to support sustainability goals,” according to the report.
These smart building systems don’t always have to be digital, however, and the report highlights the work of biologist-turned-architect Doris Kim Sung, as we covered in early September. Sung’s work with Thermobimetals, which react to heat by curling in a defined and predictable way, is facilitating smarter buildings beyond simply optimising electro-mechanical systems. “Merely by focusing on the effort of transforming mechanical systems into a more efficient prospect, we cannot do net-zero energy,” claims Sung.
The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) recently announced Advancing Net Zero, a project to ensure that all buildings are net zero by 2050. While “net zero” definitions vary, reducing the energy consumption of buildings, which make up 40% of total energy consumption, is key to our climate change efforts. Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC, said, “the success of our ambitions to keep global warming to within 1.5 to 2 degrees will depend on our ability to advance net zero buildings... Net zero buildings will be a defining contribution in our efforts to tackle climate change.”
To hit the 2050 target, the Advancing Net Zero initiative sets a goal of making all renovations of the existing building stock net zero by 2030, along with all new buildings. Although the effort must be global to succeed, the WorldGBC is “starting in Europe where 35% of buildings are over 50 years old, and are badly in need of energy efficiency improvements,” said Wills.
In March this year, 13 European Green Building Councils kicked off BUILD UPON, the world’s largest collaborative project on building renovation. BUILD UPON is working with hundreds of different organizations to design long-term national renovation strategies in each of the participating countries. Industry leader and author of the report, Philips Lighting, is also doing its part; last December, the company announced its intention to become carbon-neutral by 2020.
Philips Lighting CEO Eric Rondolat also urged other leaders and businesses to set more aggressive targets to prevent climate change. “As it stands, we’ve reached the climate change checkout and all the contributions from around the world have proved insufficient to prevent a potentially catastrophic rise in global temperatures,” Rondolat stated. “The world must set more ambitious goals to improve energy efficiency.”
While the report is “green” in its tone, it underlines that creating more sustainable buildings is not entirely altruistic. “Building green can polish up an organization’s brand, generate positive PR, and attract top talent, while also reducing operating costs and increasing asset value,” it reads.
In conclusion, the report emphasizes that being green is no longer a trade-off between profit and conscience. With continual technology breakthroughs and growing understanding of sustainability requirements, green thinking and good business practices are combining to create a win-win-win situation: good for employees, good for business, and good for the environment.
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