Businesses can reduce their carbon footprint by running their business in a more eco-friendly building that conserves energy, promotes recycling, reduces waste and enables sustainable business practices.
So what is an eco-friendly building? What are the benefits of an eco-friendly building? How do I make my building more eco-friendly? These are some of the questions this article answers. It’s a great introduction to green buildings and their role in creating a more sustainable business.
What Is an Eco-Friendly Building
Business Feed describes eco-friendly buildings as buildings that aim to reduce their negative impact on the environment and their surrounding community. Their simple definition of eco-friendly buildings is “environmentally conscious construction (and operation) of buildings.”
Benefits of an Eco-Friendly Building
An eco-friendly building delivers both environmental and business benefits. Tangible, practical benefits include reduced energy costs, increased building resale value, reduced liability, and better indoor air quality. Some of the less obvious benefits include improved employee mood and work ethic and attracting high end clients that often have eco-friendly preferences and interests. When designing and constructing a new building, builders can use eco-friendly materials and also reduce construction waste.
Eco-Friendly Building Power and Energy
The largest environmental impact of a building is often tied to the building utilities such as power, air conditioning, and heating. Fortunately there are many different ways to help reduce both energy requirements and the environmental impact of these utilities. The primary building sustainability consideration starts with power where solar energy has emerged as the most popular and effective alternative energy source.
If you’re just getting started with evaluating solar panels check out our recent post on where to find the best solar energy companies. Solar energy can be a daunting task, but Energy Sage has a great article on how to assess how valuable solar energy would be for your business. According to Paradise Solar Solutions and LEED, solar energy can save commercial buildings 20% to 40% on their electric bill. In addition, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act can “recover a large portion of the upfront system cost in one year.” The Tax Cut and Jobs act have a 100% depreciation bonus and there is a Federal incentive for 30% tax credit. Depending on your solar operation and your building size, you may even be able to sell power back if you have excess.
Combined Heat and Power
Another approach would be to use combined heat and power. Rather than using two different sources for both heat and electricity, the heat from the electricity being generated is used to heat the building. Thus only one source of power is needed to generate electricity and heat from a single source. This power source is very useful for heating large buildings while also getting power from the heat. This source isn’t exactly renewable, but it certainly cuts down greenhouse gas emissions and makes energy consumption more efficient.
Wind turbines can be a great alternative when available in your area. For those with optimal location, wind turbines are a viable option for your main power source. However, there have been a lot of companies recently who have designed wind turbines for urban use and have changed their designs to reduce the noise and be more visually attractive. Wind Power Engineering provides an excellent overview on their website about using wind turbines on buildings for commercial use.
Cooling & Heating
Cooling and heating is another big expense for businesses. Fortunately there are a slew of new modern, more energy-efficient HVAC systems that are available for your building that will lower energy consumption and lower your bills. eSub Constructions’s article, 7 Ways the HVAC Industry is Becoming Greener, is a great place to start looking for a solution to your outdated inefficient HVAC systems. The investment in a new system will often have a payback of less than 5 years so it makes financial sense to go with energy efficient HVAC system. Bottom line, a more eco-friendly cooling and heating system leads to lower energy bills, making your business more profitable.
Water conservation is a good way to save money while also being more eco-friendly by reducing the use of a scarce resource. Green Biz has a great article on 10 different ways to reduce your water waste. Some of their initiatives include putting in new toilets or flush valves that will reduce the water flushed from 3-5 gallons to 1.28 gallons. Another initiative involves replacing the aerators on the sink as well as installing hands free faucets. The hand free faucet will prevent the sink from being left running and the aerators let less water out.
A huge part of having an eco-friendly building is the air quality inside where the employees work everyday. There are a lot of simple steps you can take to keep the air quality clean. 75F lists some of these including checking air filters, installing an IAQ sensor which works like a smoke detector for air quality, and simply keeping a clean office. One way to maintain clean air quality is adding some plant life to the building. It’s best to try and buy plants that don’t require a lot of water that are local.
Sustainable Building Materials
For any new construction of buildings, there are a bunch of eco-friendly alternative materials for construction. LitchField Builders has a comprehensive list with a dozen of these examples.
Eco-Friendly Building Certification: LEED
The Balance describes LEED certification as “a certification process aimed at rewarding sustainable and environmentally friendly decisions that are part of your construction process.” Unlike the Green Business Bureau Certification that covers all aspects of a sustainable business, LEED certification is 100% focused on the sustainability of the physical building. The certification is helpful in promoting your green building and attracting new potential partners and customers. There are five areas that LEED covers: building design and construction, interior design and construction, building operations and maintenance, neighborhood development, and homes. These areas are broken down into a point system that add up to give you a score placing you anywhere from Certified all the way to Platinum. For more information regarding the specifics around the point system and other related topics about LEED, check out The Balance’s Understand LEED certification basics article.
LEED is a great certification for buildings and is “the standard” for sustainable buildings. However, LEED does not cover all the other aspects of running a green business like recycling, reuse, environmentally hazardous materials, delivery vehicles, product packaging, community outreach, etc. If you are looking for the complete certification coverage of a sustainable business, the Green Business Bureau Certification would complement your LEED certification perfectly covering all aspects of your business and its operations.