If you are starting a new business and/or have a commercial building under construction, chances are you’re planning to install top-of-the-line technology so that the systems in your building last as long as possible and work to the best of their ability. If you begin the construction of your commercial property with energy efficiency in mind, you will already be ahead of the game. You won’t need to worry about upgrades for a long time, and you’ll be saving money from the get-go. That means you’ll have more money in your pocket that can go toward construction costs and operating expenses. On top of that, your building will already be green, and you can receive the tax deductions and rebates along the way. Let’s take a look at steps you can take to make sure your commercial building is planned and constructed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind.
- Life Cycle Assessment
- LEED Certification
- Green Globes Rating System
- Efficiency Categories
- Green Materials /Architecture
- Structural Efficiency
- Energy Efficiency
- Water Conservation
- ENERGY STAR Qualified Appliances/Equipment
Life Cycle Assessment
Prior to hiring architects and contractors for your building, you might want to consider a life cycle assessment (LCA). It’s not a requirement for a green building, but it is an immensely helpful process that takes you through every step of the planning, from materials to building codes to production and energy. In fact, the insights gained from a life cycle assessment can help each individual involved in the process—contractors and builders can prevent problems before they start, and the materials used will be the most environmentally friendly available. Every concern will be addressed during the assessment, allowing you to prevent future issues that may arise. Since the LCA covers every stage of the process, you can rest assured that your building will be up to date, efficient, and environmentally safe from the start, saving you time, money, and effort in the meantime.
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a global rating system for green buildings that evaluates the steps of new construction from design to operation, ensuring the most efficient, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and cost-effective result. The LEED system has four tiers of certification, which are based on the number of points the building receives after evaluation. The LEED rating plaque on your building shows your commitment to sustainability and the environment, and following the certification process ensures that your building will be energy efficient in every area.
Green Globes Rating System
Green Globes is an online rating system endorsed by the federal government that helps you to assess building standards and achieve certification, much like the LEED system. The Green Globes system is mainly used in the U.S. and Canada; the system is designed as a self-assessment that will guide you through each step of the process as well. The system was developed as an alternative to the LEED system, and its integrated design process will help you ensure that you achieve green standards for the planning, construction, and operation of your building.
Materials and Architecture
The materials used to build your commercial property will fall under the “green” category if they meet certain requirements. They can be renewable plant materials such as bamboo or recycled materials such as stone or metal. Other building materials that are non-toxic, reusable, and recyclable are considered green as well. The EPA recommends using recycled industrial goods, including demolition debris and foundry sand, for construction projects in order to reduce waste and repurpose used materials.
Structural efficiency begins at the design stage of the project, and is carried out in the construction stage. If the building is designed to be as efficient as possible from the start, the builders need only to adhere to the plans in order to make it happen. Ideally, the building will be designed to minimize impact on the environment throughout all stages of the process. During construction, building an airtight envelope will improve efficiency for heating and air when that stage is reached; continuous insulation materials are necessary in order to reduce air and energy leakage. The foundation, walls, and roof must be properly built and insulated in order to maintain indoor air quality and lighten the energy demands of heating and cooling; roofing makes a significant difference in the building temperature and heating/cooling production.
Energy efficiency itself has many facets. Some of the major building aspects that increase energy efficiency include HVAC systems, lighting, appliances, windows, water heaters, and insulation. Solar, wind, or hydro, or other sources of renewable energy fall under the energy efficiency umbrella. As mentioned earlier, building materials and sealing increase efficiency of the systems implemented during construction, and all facets can work together to ensure the highest amount of energy efficiency possible. A solar power system, for example, can heat the water heater, creating double the efficiency with no harmful gases produced.
Efficiency in water usage is vital to a green and sustainable building, and water conservation makes up a good portion of the qualifications for LEED certification. Water demands are high, and the best thing a property can facilitate is collecting and reusing water on-site. If this is not feasible, the next best thing is to install water-conserving fixtures such as low-flush toilets and low-pressure faucets.
As often as possible, appliances, fixtures, and other equipment in a building should be ENERGY STAR certified. The ENERGY STAR rating means that an appliance is preapproved by the EPA to use the least amount of energy while saving you the most money. ENERGY STAR has a listing of the most energy-efficient products available, from refrigerators and ceiling fans to office equipment and air conditioners. Installing as many qualified products as possible will help you to achieve the maximum energy efficiency in your new building.
While there are many aspects of energy efficiency to consider when planning a commercial property, there are resources and guidelines available to help you every step of the way. Since your building will be a fixture for many years to come, it is ideal to follow best practices when it comes to energy efficiency and install systems that work in conjunction to maximize savings and benefits, as well as lessening environmental impact.
Walker Reid Strategies specializes in energy efficiency, focusing on 179D deductions and 45L tax credits. We partner with many energy and tax organizations to educate and advise the public on strategies for energy efficiency and related tax deductions and benefits. Contact us directly for more information.