Sustainability in Commercial Property

Sustainability in Commercial Property

By Daniel Brooks-Dowsett, Director, Trident Building Consultancy

Whether it’s a brand new building full of the latest innovations, or a refurbishment of an existing building which must now meet rigorous and legally-enforced minimum energy efficiency standards, sustainability continues to force its way up the agenda.

But the impact of environmental measures can no longer be viewed in isolation: the way that green building design and fit-out interacts with policy, finance, finance, tenant relations, staff wellbeing and broader community issues defines ‘good’ environmental management of a building today.

Research carried out among European real estate industry professionals reveals that over three-quarters of commercial buildings have a sustainability strategy, which is itself increasingly interlinked with business objectives. These include preventing obsolescence, exploiting tax incentives and simply creating a ‘quality building’ which has market appeal. Buildings lacking such a strategy are viewed by many as an investment risk.

In the commercial property world, investment consultants use a number of tools in their scrutiny of green strategies. These include the FTSE EPRA Global Real Estate Index, the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV), the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, new EPC legislation and near-zero carbon initiatives.

There is also substantial evidence that companies seeking to attract and retain the new generation of skilled workers regard a sustainable building as an important element in their brand and corporate identity.

So what form do the most effective sustainability initiatives take? Here’s a checklist that facilities managers can use to check for quick wins:

Heating and air conditioning

  • Upgrading boilers to more efficient models
  • Insulating hot water cylinders
  • Installing a weather compensation system
  • Reducing thermostat deadbands to to prevent heating and cooling working simultaneously
  • Introducing controls such as individual room thermostats or thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)
  • Checking air supply and extract systems are being operated in line with specification and installation details
  • Installing heat recovery units to allow for the transfer of thermal energy
  • Using high performance mechanical systems (including high efficiency chillers, boilers, and thermal heat recovery from the floors)

Thermal elements

  • Upgrading insulation to roofs, floors and cavity walls
  • Retrofitting external insulation/ cladding to solid wall construction
  • Addressing draughts


  • Changing to LED or CFL technology
  • Maximising the use of daylight, where necessary combined with passive solar shading to reduce the need for air conditioning
  • Utilising dimming lighting controls and PIR systems to allow lighting levels to be adjusted according to external daylight.


  • Replacing single glazed windows with double or triple glazing

Building controls

  • Introducing motion sensors and adjusting timings on existing sensors

Supply chain

  • Specifying and sourcing sustainable materials
  • Using local labour and products


  • Introducing solar panels (both photovoltaic and solar thermal), biomass boilers, and air or ground source heat pumps

Biophilic design

  • Introducing more nature in the form of green walls and roofs, views of natural landscapes and internal planting


  • Measuring and monitoring data on energy savings and indoor air quality and evaluating its effectiveness

Clearly the skill for facilities managers today is to balance the all-important people-centric features with ongoing energy and resource efficiency through the use of technology and good maintenance practices.

As it is increasingly acknowledged that customer and staff wellbeing is affected by the sustainability of the building in which they operate, sustainability in property is becoming synonymous with quality. And that is good news for both people and the environment.


Sustainability in Commercial Property