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How to Give an Old Office Building a ‘Green’ Makeover

How to Give an Old Office Building a ‘Green’ Makeover

With prospective tenants increasingly seeking office space in green buildings, what can commercial landlords do to make their older-style, energy-inefficient premises more eco-friendly?

Green buildings bring benefits for landlords in everything from increased tenant attraction to higher returns on investment and reduced outgoing expenses. And it’s not just the bottom line at stake – buildings account for around 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Given most office stock is in older buildings that weren’t designed with sustainability in mind, there is vast potential to achieve substantial energy, water, waste and emission reductions through implementing appropriate ecologically sustainable development (ESD) upgrades and refurbishments of these buildings.

So how can you retrofit your office building to make it eco-friendly and more economical to run?

Assess your building’s environmental performance

To guide future ESD investment, look at how the building is currently performing. You can do this through NABERS, a national environmental rating system that assesses commercial premises across various categories. By inputting historical billing and operational data into the NABERS self-assessment rating calculator you can quickly and inexpensively measure your building’s performance against industry benchmarks.

You could also conduct an energy/water audit to determine where energy and water is currently being used and what indicative costs are required to achieve meaningful savings.

Determine where you want to take your building

Depending on your planned investment strategy, there are a number of aspects you should consider regarding how far you’re prepared to invest in ‘greening’ your asset.

Are you looking for a long-term major transformation, mid-range efficiency improvements or simply addressing the ‘low-hanging’ fruit that could result in reduced energy and water outgoings?

In putting together an action plan, you should take into account upfront costs, savings and the payback for the various measures; the associated uplift in NABERS ratings; access to capital and available grants/funding; related maintenance and resourcing costs; and potential disruption to building occupants.

Lower your building’s energy consumption

Not all energy-saving initiatives cost large sums of money. Check with your building manager and mechanical services contractor to see what low-cost operational improvements can be made to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. In most cases retuning these systems, upgrading the building controls and fitting variable speed drives to fans/pumps can result in sizeable savings that are reasonably cost-effective.

Regular, ongoing maintenance of these and other building systems will also assist energy-efficiency, along with optimising plant lifetime and occupancy comfort.

Upgrading to energy-efficient lighting – such as LED – could reduce your lighting energy consumption by up to half. Other good initiatives include the fitting of motion or light sensors, timers and two-way switches. Choosing light-colour interior paint finishes and maximising natural daylight from windows can also provide energy savings and help improve indoor environment quality.

There are now minimum energy-performance requirements for major refurbishments, as well as new buildings. Initiatives that are more likely to be considered as part of a major refurbishment include replacement of chillers and air-handling equipment; upgrades to the building fabric/glazing and lifts; and installation of cogeneration and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

Reduce water usage

Regularly check plant equipment and taps for leaks, as these can account for more than 10 percent of a building’s water usage. Consider fitting sub-meters to large water-consuming equipment, especially cooling towers, and implement a monitoring strategy to respond promptly to trends indicating unusually high water consumption. 

Choose shower-heads, toilets, and taps with good WELS ratings and consider the fitting of timers, flow controllers and aerators to help reduce water usage. 

With major refurbishments, consideration could be given to the installation of recycled water systems, via rainwater harvesting and/or grey or blackwater treatment systems. These systems could significantly reduce drinking water consumption for toilet flushing, irrigation and cooling tower make-up.

Minimise waste

Ensure processes are in place that enable effective separation of general waste, paper and commingled waste (e.g. metals and plastics), as well as toner cartridges, batteries and light fittings. (For information on recycling mercury-containing fluorescent lighting visit FluoroCycle.)

Building owners can also significantly minimise fitout churn by applying more flexible “make good” provisions in leases. Good quality fixtures and fittings are often thrown away and large quantities of materials binned unnecessarily as part of standard make-good clauses.

Consider a green lease

It’s important to have ‘buy-in’ from the building’s tenants when you’re embarking on an upgrade. Making operational changes to the building’s HVAC system, for example, will be much less painful when the tenants understand the building owner’s green agenda. Working with your tenants regarding waste management and ‘green cleaning’ are just some ways in which you both can achieve desired outcomes.

Signing a green lease can help ensure your building’s tenants are as committed to the principles of environmental sustainability as you are. While they’ve historically been seen as inflexible, less onerous green-lease templates and guides are now available, including the model lease clauses developed by the Better Buildings Partnership. 

And to encourage your tenants to reduce their environmental footprint and support your sustainability efforts, point them towards the Savills Green Tenancy Guide

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The team at Savills are experts in their respective fields, with extensive experience backed by 150 years of Savills industry knowledge. This makes us well placed to provide you with the most informed view of current trends as well as helpful guides and top tips across the commercial and residential property sectors.

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  • Research & Consultancy 34
  • Retail & Leisure 15
  • Residential 43
  • Sustainability 7
  • Connect with our team

    Connect with the Savills team on LinkedIn.

    Connect with our team

    Savills on Twitter

    Follow us on Twitter

    If you have any comments or questions regarding the Savills blog just drop us a line.

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  • Research & Consultancy 34
  • Retail & Leisure 15
  • Residential 43
  • Sustainability 7
  • Connect with our team

    Connect with the Savills team on LinkedIn.

    Connect with our team

    Savills on Twitter

    Follow us on Twitter

    If you have any comments or questions regarding the Savills blog just drop us a line.

    Email the Editor