Sustainability rules and regulations for commercial real estate (CRE) properties are not going away. In fact, more mandates continue to roll out. And with the increase in legislation, 40% of CRE professionals are also seeing a rise in demand for sustainability among tenants. With all that’s at stake, CRE owners and operators need to make deliberate plans to meet sustainability requirements at their properties.
Here are three steps to creating healthier buildings as you assess your sustainability strategy and work to stay compliant with green building mandates.
1. Create a Clean Indoor Air Action Plan
Tenants are demanding healthy buildings. That’s because the concerns brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t going away. Building owners and operators need to reduce risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors. By building a clean indoor air action plan you can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other viruses.
The Biden-Harris Administration recently launched the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as a call to action for leaders, building owners, and operators to assess their indoor air quality (IAQ) and make ventilation and air filtration improvements to keep occupants safe. This new sustainability initiative in the US highlights actions taken by buildings to achieve clean, healthy air quality through a recognition program. Similar to how programs like LEED, Fitwel, and WELL recognize buildings for environmental and health impacts, this new effort helps to develop ways to recognize steps taken by building owners for the health and safety of their communities and their achievements in improving IAQ.
The Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the following steps to improve IAQ:
- create a clean indoor air action plan;
- optimize fresh air ventilation;
- enhance air filtration and cleaning; and
- conduct community engagement, communication, and education.
2. Build a Sustainability Strategy
As part of New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act and new sustainability laws in the US, New York Local Law 97 (going into effect in 2024) places carbon caps on most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet. The ultimate goal is to reduce 80% of emissions by 2050. Now is the time to assess your current sustainability strategy or establish one if you don’t already have a plan in place.
When building a sustainability strategy, it’s important to have real-time insight into how your systems are performing. Many asset managers are tackling their sustainability strategies by investing in tech platforms that help them understand how energy is being used at their property. This way they can make sure they’re in compliance with sustainability rules and regulations while also being aware of energy and cost saving opportunities, HVAC unit lifespans, tenant comfort scores, and IAQ in their buildings.
3. Move Toward HVAC Energy Reduction and Savings
As of late, the City of Boston established the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO). Its goal is to gradually reduce emissions from large buildings to net zero by 2050.
And California recently rolled out new Zero Net Energy (ZNE) code revisions that have the potential to drive the greatest concentration of energy efficient buildings on the planet. Under these Title 24 codes, new residential and government buildings must be ZNE by 2020-2025, with commercial buildings following by 2030. To meet the state’s definition of net zero, a building (or campus or community) must offset the energy it drains from the grid with an approximately equal amount of renewable energy generated on-site.
HVAC systems account for 50% of total energy consumption for commercial offices and 20% of overall commercial real estate operating and energy costs. With numbers like that, it’s important to look at each HVAC unit’s operational efficiency at your properties.
Improving HVAC sustainability doesn’t mean you need to invest massive amounts of money. Certain HVAC tech solutions can help extend the life of your HVAC units and plug into your existing building management system (BMS) with no new equipment needed. This sort of implementation offers an efficient way to optimize HVAC usage and energy without paying for new systems or expensive hardware.
Prepare to Meet Sustainability Rules and Regulations
CRE sustainability rules and regulations continue to be a focus for the federal and local governments. Not only are these policies pushing property owners and operators to meet new sustainability requirements, they’re also putting pressure on investors to back up their efforts to go green.
Going forward, data will be key to your sustainability strategy. Consider implementing an intelligent HVAC management system that can monitor and learn your equipment operations. Such a system can also leverage AI and data inputs to make real-time micro-adjustments. That means every piece of your HVAC equipment is optimized. As a result, you can:
- exceed indoor air quality standards;
- reduce energy consumption and costs; and
- maximize tenant comfort
Download the checklist “Your Low-Cost Plan to Prepare for CRE Sustainability Mandates” for your actionable plan as you work to meet your sustainability goals.