Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strategies For Green Office Improvements

For owners of medium sized commercial properties, and even large scale office complexes, there are a number of initiatives owners can take to make their buildings more "green-friendly."

Remember, the benefit is a dual-whammy, of sorts. One, there are cost savings to be had, as well as the opportunity to charge lessees a higher per square foot rent. Second, more and more tenants (especially young decision-makers) are gravitating toward sustainable facilities.

Here are a few ideas for owners of smaller office buildings who are giving their structures even the most modest of face-lifts. Most of these concepts focus on improvements to restrooms and come from House And Garden Television (HGTV).

1) Cabinetry and Vanity Tops
Look for cabinets made from wheatboard or other low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) materials. Standard cabinets typically are made with urea-formaldehyde, which some experts say can excrete gases from VOC compounds for up to 15 years.

2) Lighting
If possible insert a window or skylight into the bathroom area. Sean Ruck, spokesperson for the National Kitchen &Bath Association says any natural light you can introduce, even from a tubular skylight, will dramatically lessen your dependence on electric light.

3) Low and No VOC Products
Many caulks, adjesives and sealants made for bathrooms include some sort of mildewcide or other mold-inhibiting compounds. While these make it easier for janitorial staff to keep bathrooms clean because less potentially irritating cleaning agents are required, many also include harmful VOCs. During renovation, it is best to look for paints, stains, adhesives and caulks labeled "Low VOC" or "No VOCs."

4) Hot Water Heaters and Toilets/Urinals
Tankless hot water heaters (instand hot water) cost several hundred dollars more than traditional hot water heaters, but they use 20 percent less energy than the traditional units. In just a few years, the extra up-front cost will be recovered via savings in energy used to keep a large, traditional tank hot 24 hours a day.

Additionally, composting toilets and waterless urinals, in particular, are becoming very popular in green commercial buildings in Europe and the U.S. because of the water they save. A number of companies manufacture these systems, and they increasingly are piercing the residential bathroom market.

Just a few ideas to help owners make the leap into the sustainable world. Again, as I have written before, its not about what owners believe. It is about what more and more tenants want.

With increasingly frequency, and budget, lessees are gravitating -- by choice -- toward green buildings or buildings that have gotten facelifts and whose owners are incorporating sustainable business practices.

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