8 Emerging Design Trends in Sustainable Buildings

Sustainability is becoming one of the top priorities of commercial property owners. Interest in the Circular economy has moved past its initial fascination and is taking root as both the business and investment communities are recognizing the value of safer, more efficient workspaces. 

Safer, greener, and more flexible building designs are edging out older paradigms. Sustainable buildings are attracting the attention of younger investors and tenants. Transparency about material use and reuse is being increasingly recognized as desirable. A commitment to providing space that promotes health and well-being is something the Millennial and Gen Z demographics understand and value. 

The big reset we see in workstyle has resulted from the 2020 shutdown. In the wake of this phenomenon, there is a new balance between in-person and remote work models. Because of this new perspective, multiple design trends have begun to emerge and are contributing to happier employees. The resulting productivity is helping businesses attract new talent and retain existing talent. Following is a list of some of these trends. 

Emerging Design Trend

1. Green Energy 

Green energy is becoming more important in the commercial space. Solar energy is being implemented to help offset costs from traditional energy sources and preserve precious resources. Clean energy, like solar, also benefits the environment. Thanks to the cost-effective nature of solar panels, businesses are reducing operating costs, increasing property value, and capturing tax credits and bonus depreciation. 

  1. Sustainable Building Materials 

With the advancements in technology, some people are incorporating sustainable and healthy building materials. Some of these design materials include: cork, bamboo, and reclaimed wood (used for interior design). Also, sustainable systems that can be reconfigured and reused are accelerating flexibility and adaptivity for businesses.

Structural materials would include insulated concrete and recycled steel. Access Floors, like the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® system, are made of 100% USA Steel and can be reconfigured an unlimited number of times. That makes it good for the environment and cost effective too. Programmable thermostats, too, are some of the smart building systems that are working alongside the materials to make buildings more efficient and limit waste. 

3. Stormwater Management

Flooding, erosion, and water quality are being managed through green practices, also known as Best Management Practices (BMPs). BMPs include a variety of measures, including; structural, vegetative, or managerial practices used to treat, prevent or reduce water pollution.

The inclusion of plant life, also known as green infrastructure, helps with water absorption. Buildings are further protected through the use of porous pavement technologies, which also help prevent roadway flooding.  Traditionally, engineers relied upon storm water drains and drainage systems but new porous pavement technologies also include:

  • An unpaved stone edge
  • A layer of choker coarse stone 
  • A layer of uniformly graded clean crushed stone
  • A non-woven geotextile
  • An uncompacted subgrade  

4. Cooling Roofs 

Businesses can enjoy relief in the cost of energy through emerging roof technologies. Special paints designed to reflect heat help keep roofs cool. A low cost solution with immediate impact, cooling roofs lower energy use and keep interior spaces cooler in the summer months.

5. Passive Building Designing 

Passive building design leverages the orientation of the sun and climate to control heat absorption. Additionally, window and shading technologies can bring in natural light while shielding against or capitalizing on ambient heat. 

In regions where night temperatures are low, thermal mass can be designed to use light to build heat throughout daylight hours and release it within the building during the night hours as a low cost alternative heating method. 

6. Native Landscaping 

Native landscaping is another important aspect contributing to effective water use strategies. In areas prone to drought, the use of native plants eliminates costly irrigation requirements. Landscape designers and contractors can recommend the best trees, plants and decorative elements to keep water use down. As an added benefit, native trees can also protect buildings on hot days. 

7. Rooftop Decks

There is no doubt that rooftops are the least utilized parts of a particular building. But in the modern era, rooftop decks are increasing in popularity as they are a great way to increase the amount of functional space within a structure. 

In temperate climates, business and commercial space owners can design rooftop gathering spaces,  or even desking space to enhance the connection with the outdoors. Wellness design focuses on the benefit of connecting indoor and outdoor environments.

8. Zero Energy Building 

In a zero-energy building—also known as a zero net energy (ZNE), net-zero energy building (NZEB), or net zero building—the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. 

This design trend is becoming popular among building owners. A unique blend of renewable energy and energy efficiency, the zero energy building incorporates the use of energy-efficient appliances and efficient building construction to effectively reduce the carbon footprint and replace energy usage with regenerative systems. 

Wind power systems can act as supplemental systems to support solar systems and help make businesses energy efficient. 

Go Green With Emerging Design Trends! 

Sustainable building designs are a way to help businesses reach a stage where they achieve a more balanced approach to operations. Using greener, more updated designs and approaches, sustainable buildings are taking another step toward circularity. The added benefit is that they not only attract and support tenants in terms of well-being but they are also proving more cost efficient to run.

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