How to build a net zero building and reap the rewards of sustainability
Sustainability and ESG are the focus of the summer for organizations looking to improve not only their workplace but the impact they have on their people as well. Working to make existing buildings sustainable and earn the title of ‘net zero building’ with ESG practices is a commitment that can take several years.
One of the larger undertakings in this area is the Government of Canadas Greening Government Strategy, aiming to transition their portfolio to net-zero carbon and climate resilient assets & facilities. Applying to all departments and agencies, the goal is to accomplish this by 2050, namely across Government Owned & Leased Property.
So, not only how are they planning to do it, but how can real property managers and facilities managers step up their ESG & sustainability game to one day turn their building into a net-zero asset?
Honesty in data tracking to see just how sustainable facilities are, as well as updates in technology can be catalysts to impactful work.
For more on sustainability & Archibus:
- Archibus Green Building
- Data Analysis & Energy Use Tracking
- Harvards 9 Foundations of Healthy Buildings
Take stock of your portfolio & goals
There are endless examples of organizations or businesses claiming to be more sustainable or green than they really are. This “greenwashing” results in ESG & sustainability becoming nothing more than a PR tactic for attracting or retaining talent. With up to 40% of environmental claims online found to be misleading, benchmarking where an organizations operations and facilities processes stand is vital when it comes to doing the work.
Starting with outlining your goals for your facilities, do you want o achieve net-zero carbon? Energy? Defining goals as well as where a portfolio stands in relation to these definitions is important. The Government of Canadas goals are focused on net-zero carbon in their building portfolio.
Using benchmarking like energy bills is a good way to gauge emissions & energy use and see where an organization might need to improve.
If energy tracking is new to current operations, chances are that improvements are going to be needed to come in line with more sustainable benchmarks & hit future goals. Setting these goals in relation to where operations stand is important. Maybe emissions are too high, just how much they need to come down is going to impact the work that follows!
Upfitting existing buildings (& planning net zero builds)
What follows goal setting and benchmarking baseline readings is likely the upfitting or retrofitting of buildings and facilities to drive net-zero initiatives. Original baseline readings of facilities carbon emissions & energy use are going to indicate the degree of work that needs to be done.
Tools like Archibus Green building help facilities & property managers measure carbon and energy emissions levels and adjust processes/operations accordingly. Original assessments could show that HVAC or lighting systems are lacking and therefore need to be upfitted to be more efficient in carbon emissions and energy use; or simply adjust their schedules from the Archibus platform.
Thorough assessments to set benchmarks could also highlight larger capital projects that need undertaking. If a building is made of high carbon materials or features a range or inefficiencies, projects to improve these could be a more complex task than changing the light schedules. One such example of this is the heritage buildings present in the Canadian Government portfolio and the work they are doing to improve these buildings to meet net-zero building goals.
Planning upfitting and capital projects around existing buildings needs careful planning, but designing new ones requires all aspects of the building to be in line with net-zero initiatives from the start. Since setting these goals, all new builds must be net-zero buildings by design, Canada Post finished a processing centre in 2022 that accomplished just that and sets a benchmark for sustainable new builds.
Consider adding to your tech stack
If retrofits and upfits have been done, or a new building with net-zero certification is completed, then the best way to build on this success is to integrate the right tech.
Tools like Archibus can track billing for energy & gas to monitor both costs and energy use and adjust practices for greener operations. Use cases also include energy management, highlighting utility metrics as well as an energy “heat map” to discern what areas/systems might use more energy.
Keeping tabs on energy use and utilities across a building is the best way to ensure sustainable and net-zero building initiatives are met. Without this level of insight into the systems, how else can managers expect to adjust?
Env. Sustainability Assessment & sustainability projects tracking is what keeps track of these adjustments and larger projects around retrofitting or upfitting to buildings. Seeing how they progress and aligning these projects with deadlines or net-zero goals is going to be what keeps things moving along.
Considering platforms like Archibus Green Building that offer carbon footprint calculations by site and building will help prioritize sustainability projects. If certain sites require more upfitting and work to meet net-zero building standards, knowing where to start and referring to project comparisons can tackle bigger-ticket projects first.
ESG and sustainability is here, and integrating the right practices into business operations is going to make any future regulatory decisions easier to adjust to. Now, these three tips we mentioned are all based in technology. We believe that technology is a catalyst to achieving the change we want to see around us for people.
The more businesses and organizations that lean into data collection for sustainability practices the more innovation that we’ll see for the betterment of humanity. We’re already seeing successes in building sustainability, and hope to see even more with the help of new and innovative technologies each year.