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World’s Most Sustainable Buildings and How to Create One

Architecture businesses all across the world are implementing eco-friendly operating and building methods. There is a significant increase in the number of sustainable practices in architecture, which is not only due to increased knowledge about the influence of construction on climate change but also due to the fact that buildings that meet sustainability standards save money and increase returns.

Sustainable buildings attempt to conserve natural resources by reducing water use, enhancing energy efficiency, and reducing material waste, resulting in a more pleasant and healthy environment in which to live and preserving resources for the future. It’s not just new construction that incorporates sustainable design, construction and operational methods, but also older buildings that are being renovated to make them more energy-efficient and build resilience against future risks.

Sustainability Standards for Commercial Buildings

There are possibly hundreds of sustainability standards for commercial buildings worldwide, some international and some country-specific. Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, it gives a taste of the biggest accreditations that property owners and developers may strive for…

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - Internationally Recognized

There is a great deal of emphasis placed on LEED certification in the commercial real estate industry. The actual term "LEED-certified," on the other hand, is not well known among many property owners. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification system developed by the United States Green Building Council and recognized across the world for its environmental benefits.

LEED certification is a third-party certification that validates that a building or community was planned and constructed using procedures and materials that promote environmental sustainability to the greatest extent possible. In 2021, the US Green Building Council ranked Canada second in the list of top ten countries for LEED certified projects worldwide.

Environmentally friendly, high-performance buildings (LEED-certified buildings) are built and constructed with an emphasis on energy savings, water efficiency reduction, carbon emissions reduction and enhanced indoor air quality. Also taken into account is the design's general stewardship of resources as well as its sensitivity to its influence on the environment.

CESBA (Europe)

CESBA stands for Common European Sustainable Building Assessment. It is a collaborative effort to promote the standardization of sustainable building evaluations for public buildings across Europe.

The driving force behind the creation of CESBA was the acknowledgement that there are a wide range of sustainable building certification systems in different European areas and it was necessary to develop a uniform framework for building inspections. Building life cycle phases are included in the CESBA cycle because they reflect CESBA tools, services, core assessment indicators and milestones.

International Green Construction Code (IgCC) - USA Managed

The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is the first program to include sustainability measures in the design, building, and operation of a construction project and its site – from the initial planning stages up to the award of a certificate of occupancy. This relatively new certification is meant to improve building efficiency, cut down on waste and improve public health, safety and well-being.

BREEAM (International with UK head office)

A sustainability evaluation tool for master planning projects, infrastructure, and buildings, BREEAM is the world's premier method for evaluating sustainability. Over the course of the built environment lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and renovation, it recognizes and reflects the value of higher-performing assets.

Through the use of standards defined by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), BREEAM achieves this through third-party certification based on the assessment of an asset's environmental, social and economic sustainability performance.

For the most part, this implies that BREEAM-rated developments are more environmentally friendly buildings that improve the well-being of those who live and work in them, aid in the conservation of natural resources and make for more appealing real estate investments.

Top Global Sustainable Buildings

Shanghai Tower, China

This 128-story building, located in the heart of Shanghai, was completed in 2008 and is the city's second-largest structure in terms of height. The tower itself has a number of eco-sustainable elements.

The construction has been designed to collect rainwater for internal use and the twist in the exterior helps to minimize wind load by 24 %, making it more energy-efficient. The wind turbines are positioned across the street from the building and generate around 350,000 kWh of power each year.

University of Waterloo Environment Building 3, Waterloo, Canada

Building three of the university’s environment buildings was completed in 2011 and at that time was able to boast being the first LEED Platinum certified building on an Ontario campus. Some of the sustainable features that contributed to this accolade were the two-storey living wall connected to the HVAC system which acts as an air filter, a specially constructed wetland that treats wastewater and low impact furniture.

One Central Park, Sydney, Australia

Ateliers Jean Nouvel and Foster & Partners were responsible for the initial design of this building plan. One central park offers a variety of green features, such as a water harvesting system, green roofing, damaged recycling materials, car share and sewer mining, all of which contribute to its environmental sustainability.

Pots with plants and foliage are arranged throughout the inside and outdoors, with the majority of them being on the balconies.

Pixel Building, Melbourne, Australia

This dramatic office building is the world's first carbon-neutral construction and it is located in Australia. According to Australia's green/sustainable grading system, the building was designed by Studio505 and received a score of 105 points.

The structure is jam-packed with environmentally friendly elements, such as a waste reduction system, a water collecting facility, green roofs and a renewable energy installation in the form of multiple wind turbines.

Museum of Tomorrow, Brazil

This is a science museum that has been constructed in Rio de Janeiro. The skyscraper, which is widely regarded as one of the most amazing structures in the world, is an exceptional example of sustainable engineering.

The Museum of Tomorrow is equipped with a cooling system that regulates temperature by drawing on the cooling power of the neighboring water. The spines of the structure are built of solar panels that can be rotated and oriented to capture as much sunlight as possible at all times of the day.

The Crystal, London, UK

Buildings like this one in London are among the most eco-friendly in the world. It is located near the Royal Docks and serves as a global hub, meeting and events space and an educational centre of excellence for urban sustainability. The Crystal is situated on an 18,000 square meter plot of ground that is densely planted with urban landscaping which surrounds the structure.

The building is entirely powered by electricity and it is heated entirely by ground-source heat pump systems. Other characteristics of its sustainability which have led to it obtaining the highest levels of LEED and BREEAM certifications, are the energy produced by solar panels, extensive use of natural light and rainwater harvesting and recycling systems.

Importance of Sustainable Buildings

Cost Reduction

Construction is a $10 trillion business, but its financial troubles are not something to be overlooked. Smart and functional alternatives are deemed to be more than essential due to their high efficiency and low rework rate (which can be as low as 30%).

A sustainable building may make a significant contribution in this direction. In general, green construction is less expensive than a conventional structure since fewer resources (such as water and electricity) are required for the project's successful completion.

Furthermore, the return on investment (ROI) for sustainable buildings is superior. Simply expressed, the value of a building increases dramatically as a result of environmentally friendly construction.

Increased Productivity

The Guardian reports that environmentally-friendly offices help employees perform better while also decreasing absenteeism and cutting costs. A positive environment makes it simpler to concentrate and work successfully toward the completion of tasks and tasks themselves become easier to complete.

Health Improvement

Green buildings can have a positive impact on one's health. Outdoor air is two to five times less contaminated than the inside air according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Paints, cleaning chemicals, and carpets, among other materials used in construction and furnishing, can be hazardous to human health if used improperly. The usage of environmentally friendly products can assist in the purification of the air.

Waste Minimization

The construction industry accounts for around a third of all waste going to landfill in Canada. Green buildings minimize waste by reducing their environmental effect and by utilizing renewable resources and materials in their construction.

It is possible to employ products such as demolition rubble, sand, and burned coal to achieve outstanding environmental and aesthetically pleasing effects.

Better Use Of Materials

Water management in sustainable buildings is more efficient and ecologically friendly than in conventional structures. It is possible to equip eco-sustainable buildings with water-saving technologies that recycle water, such as collecting rainwater for toilet flushing and cleaning and watering the grounds.

Sustainable buildings are capable of collecting and preserving natural energy, such as solar or wind energy and storing and utilizing it in the appropriate manner. Not only this, smart technologies are enabling better monitoring and prediction of energy usage.

Future of Sustainable Buildings in Canada

The needs for sustainability may be divided into three categories: economic, environmental, and socio-cultural. The goal of economic sustainability is to ensure the long-term protection of economic resources.

With regard to the construction sector, we must consider not only the costs of acquisition and construction but also the costs of a structure throughout its existence and the costs associated with the demolition of a structure.

The environmental component is concerned with the transmission of environmental knowledge from one generation to the next. In this context, sustainability in architecture refers to the conservation of resources via the optimal use of construction materials and products, resulting in a reduction in the demand for heating materials, electric power, water, and the volume of wastewater produced.

In terms of the socio-cultural dimension of sustainability, the catalog of criteria may be summarized as focused on the protection of human health, the preservation of a functioning community, and the provision of sufficient living conditions. Thermal insulation, lighting, soundproofing, barrier-free access, the selection of materials, and aesthetic considerations are all important components of the architecture.

In order to formulate comprehensive and precise purposes for buildings, it is necessary to consider all of the characteristics of sustainability listed above.

The ideal approach would be to examine each stage of a building's life cycle in terms of the many components of sustainability and then optimize the interaction between those factors. This is no small task in itself, however an even bigger challenge potentially precludes this; until we see some sort of international task force to come up with a global sustainable building standard, we’ll continue to witness a very haphazard and somewhat aimless approach to greening commercial buildings.

In our view LEED and BREEAM are becoming the most widely adopted standards in commercial building in Canada however, they’re not comprehensive on their own and still don’t get to a joined-up worldwide approach on addressing the industry’s contribution to climate change. Combining the strengths of both LEED and BREEAM into a worldwide standard, while identifying and filling in any sustainability gaps in these accreditations would be a positive place to start but who’s going to take the gauntlet?

For more insight into Sustainable investing in the GTA, please reach out to Private Capital Group for a chat.

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