How Sustainable Commercial Buildings Impact Their Community

Sustainability is more important than ever as the world works to combat the growing effects of climate change. Many people know the benefits of cutting out single-use materials, being more energy-efficient, and recycling. However, the impact of sustainability also comes from architecture. How a company designs a commercial building significantly impacts how sustainable its organization and the community become. Many things go into the design of a sustainable building, each with its effects on the surrounding people.

Active Sustainable Design

Active sustainable design is when an architect or business designs a commercial building with efficient machinery. This involves installing an efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that operates on less energy than others, a water system that flows well, a water heater that uses minimal power, and an electric system that works well without extensive energy use. Companies implementing active sustainable design from the beginning can ensure they’ve minimized their carbon footprint and won’t have to invest in significant building changes.

Passive Sustainable Design

Instead of focusing on the major building systems in active sustainable design, passive sustainable design focuses on utilizing the environment around the building in unique ways. For example, the architect might look at how the sun hits the land where the building will be and designs the building so the offices have maximum sunlight. That involves not just adding windows but also impacts the angles of the walls. Architects can design buildings to store heat in cold evenings or naturally cool themselves during warm days.

 

Renewable Energy Systems Design

This design method is often partnered with passive sustainable design and relies on implementing renewable energy sources into the building. Renewable energy systems include gathering energy from solar panels or a wind turbine, and using them in turn with passive design techniques to minimize the use of fossil fuels. Businesses that embrace renewable energy are making things better for their community and the world. It also saves them money, affecting their bottom line as the years go by.

Biophilic Design

Biophilic design involves bringing nature inside a building through design. This type of architecture involves using natural materials in the building's construction and bringing plants and greenery into the space as decor. For example, many hotels are now incorporating biophilic design into their lobbies to encourage people to hang out and spend money at the restaurants and shops that branch off them. Using sustainably sourced wood, stone, bamboo, and other materials decreases the environmental impact of the building’s production. Using plants as decor also helps companies decrease their carbon footprint by avoiding unsustainable knick-knacks and mass-produced artwork.

Native Landscaping

While sustainable businesses need to consider incorporating nature inside, it’s equally necessary to consider the type of outdoor environment to have. Native landscaping means choosing flowers, bushes, and greenery that are native to the area of construction. Businesses want to stand out from others, and they sometimes do that by incorporating plants from other climates. However, keeping outside plants alive takes considerable time, energy, and resources. When an employee has to keep plants warm or water them frequently, the business uses unnecessary resources to make their lawn look pretty. By incorporating fun plants or trees that thrive in the local climate, businesses significantly reduce the energy used for aesthetics.

 

Stormwater Management Design

When most people think of stormwater drainage, they think of the drains used to get water off of parking lots and other paved areas. However, overuse of stormwater drains can deplete the groundwater below it. Rain naturally falls onto dirt or grass, where it can seep into the soil below and replenish the water table. Stormwater drains send the collected water into lakes or streams, where it isn’t needed. Stormwater management design doesn’t mean eliminating paved areas but instead choosing porous surfaces that can send some stormwater back into the ground, replenishing the water table below.

Community Impacts

Sustainable designs don’t just affect a business but rather the entire community where it resides. That’s why it's so essential to incorporate sustainability into any commercial building blueprint.

Reduced Emissions

Reduced emissions are one of the most apparent sustainable design impacts on the surrounding community. When commercial building designers try to implement renewable resources and incorporate efficient systems through active sustainable design, they eliminate many carbon emissions. Carbon is emitted through the creation and use of non-renewable energy, which enters the atmosphere and wreaks havoc on the ozone layer, increasing the rate of climate change. By reducing emissions, a business helps maintain the community’s environment. Community members won’t face as many climate impacts thanks to a business taking proactive measures to protect the environment – every building matters in the fight against climate change.

Physical Health

Nature is a natural de-stressor. By incorporating natural landscaping, sunlight, and greenery inside and outside a commercial building, businesses are helping to relax their customers. The relaxing impacts of nature can lower blood pressure, reduce a rapid heartbeat, and lower stress hormones. Being in a natural environment can relieve muscle tension and increase pain tolerance. By using sustainable practices, the building also reduces its contribution to local dumps and landfills, which can be hazardous to the local environment.

Mental Health

Being around nature can help treat several mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being surrounded by natural beauty helps with mood regulation, decreases the number of stress hormones contributing to various disorders, and lifts people’s spirits. Natural light increases vitamin D production, decreasing the chance or someone developing or staying in a depressive state.

Increased Productivity

Employees surrounded by natural light and elements of nature are typically happier and more productive employees. This productivity increase helps the community in more than one way. Businesses don’t just sit in a community – they rely on community members to work within them as employees. Sustainably designed buildings boost employee morale and energize them to complete more work daily. When employees get more done during the day, their job is less stressful than if they struggle to feel motivated. It also allows them to complete their work sooner, so they can dedicate their full attention to their family and self-care outside the office. Increased employee productivity also allows more work for customers and clients, allowing the piece to keep up with product or service demands.

Education

When a business incorporates sustainability into its designs, it becomes a great way to educate the community about green practices. Commercial buildings with nature and renewable energy resources can impact the community’s views on sustainability. It can inspire community members to incorporate greater sustainability in their own homes, having a positive ripple effect on the environment. Businesses should consider adding signs explaining why architectural and decor choices impact the environment. They can even hold educational programs, teaching about sustainability and how it aids in the fight against climate change.

 

Using Sustainable Design

When a business decides to create a sustainable commercial building, every step of the process can aid the community’s health and well-being. The impacts of sustainable practices help enrich the environment and preserve it for the future.

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Author

Rose Morrison

Rose Morrison is a freelance writer covering the construction and home improvement industries. She is also the managing editor of Renovated. You...

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