With the increasing concern of human activities on global warming, there has been an incredible attention on looking for mechanisms of reducing its impacts on the environment. One of the proposed mechanisms of addressing this challenge is building houses that are environmental friendly called green buildings.
Technically, green buildings refer to “structures designed using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life-cycle: from sitting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition” (Kats et al. 12).
To achieve this state, it is desirable that there exists close cooperation between architects, various engineers, design teams, and clients in all stages of execution of commercial real estates’ building projects.
This paper scrutinizes the characteristics that need to be possessed by a building for it to qualify as green coupled with questioning the capacity of the green movements across the globe to prescribe the construction of purely green commercial real estates.
One of the central concerns of putting up green buildings is to help mitigate the environmental impacts associated with conventional buildings. However, in the process of building any house, there is always some extent of the natural environment disorientations and interference. This implies that the greenest building is the one that has not been built at all.
Additionally, a building occupies a space that was originally occupied by other natural systems. Therefore, even if the process of the building does not degrade the environment by interfering with the ground structure, space is consumed. This has the impact of making most buildings fail to comply with the requirement that they make use of a small space.
Furthermore, green buildings need not to contribute to sprawling, which is the tendency of structures to spread in a manner that does not follow any fashion (Kats et al. 12).
These three rules for any green building are significant since the overall goal of going green in the development of commercial real estate pegged on the idea that people must put in place strategies for ensuring that energy absorption or release to the environment is kept minimal.
In fact, International Energy Agency estimates that above 40 percent of the total global energy consumption is due to the buildings (Pushkar, Becker, and Katz 98). Buildings are also responsible for the 24 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions (Pushkar, Becker, and Katz 98).
Therefore, it is possible to manage the impacts of global warming due to environmental degradation by controlling further development of ways of building real estates and shifting towards focusing on going the green way in building and construction. The only worry is whether this technology is sustainable and readily embraceable by all nations across the globe.
Efficiency of Materials
Building a green commercial estate calls for no extraction of materials from the environment particularly the ones, which are not renewable. Some of the materials that blend well with the concern are renewable materials obtained from plants such as straws, bamboo, recyclable stones and metals, sheep wool, paper flakes made panels, clay, non-toxic material, cork, and compressed blocks made from soil amongst others.
To comply with the concerns of green building technology, it is prescribed that all materials that require processing such as earth blocks be processed right on the site where they are to be used to ensure that no energy is utilized in the transportation of the finished products.
The mechanism of processing is also to be selected such that no fossil fuels, any other forms of non-renewable source of energy, or any sources of energy that would go into destroying or destabilizing the environment or the natural flora and fauna are utilized. However, utilizing high efficiency materials seem to be a subtle mechanism of ensuring that materials for the building will never end.
Therefore, it is crucial to note that some impacts are produced on the environment while using these materials. For instance, when soil is dug for making earth blocks purposed for building green commercial real estates, the environment is affected in one way or another since earth crust is disturbed.
This outcome is not desired for a purely green building. Arguably, this qualifies as one of the reasons why it is incredibly difficult to sustain construction of 100% green buildings.
In some situations, it is necessary that off-site manufacturing be done. This strategy is indispensable when it is desired to “maximize benefits of off-site manufacture including minimizing waste, maximizing recycling, high quality elements, better OHS management, and less noise and dust” (Kats et al. 57).
This requirement makes green technology for building real estate problematic in that structures cannot be wholly manufactured off-site. Some form of joining is necessary. Some of the joinery processes used often lead to releasing some foreign matters to the environment to which green movement is largely opposed. Apparently, it is impractical to construct a whole earth block building off-site and then take it to the desired final site.
This argument does not imply that measures should not be deployed to ensure observance of efficiency of materials. Rather, the point is that green techniques should focus on realistic things that are achievable within the spheres of existing building technology. For instance, it is acceptable here that scholars have proved that buildings play central roles in hiking the rates of global warming.
Consequently, one of the mechanisms of reducing these impacts would be deployment of realistic green global warming reduction strategies such as utilization of greener forms of energy such as solar and wind energy in lighting and heating. This argument leads to the next characteristic of green buildings: energy efficiency.
Green real estate deserves to be energy sufficient, energy efficient, and self-sustaining. This means that green commercial real estates require a high capacity to reduce energy consumption rates in terms of operating the energy required to power equipment and heat. In this end, the green movement prescribes the usage of materials, which have a low embodied energy in the construction of green buildings.
Such materials include wood. Therefore, since steel has a high embodied energy, it is not a preferred green building material. Unfortunately, green buildings require that the materials used be highly recyclable. Steel perhaps fits well in this category of materials.
On the other hand, although wood may be replenished, the rate at which forests are disappearing is alarming to the extent that many countries have resorted to restrictions of felling of some species of trees, which are under threat of extinction. Therefore, based on the needs to use materials with low embodied energy, green technology’s applicability in the development of commercially viable real estate encounters some drawbacks.
However, amid the position taken above, other concerns of green building are realizable. For instance, it is practical to build a house that has a low operating energy. For instance, houses without air leakages can be designed and constructed successfully. This result is accomplished through constructing double-walled houses with the space between the two walls being airtight.
The design incredibly aids in reducing total energy loss from the interior of the house so that minimal heating is required especially during cold weather. In addition, high performance windows coupled with ceilings, floors, and walls that have extra insulation are commercially viable to make.
Other practical strategies include proper designing of houses to take full advantage of natural lighting so that the necessity of electrical lighting is minimized. Solar heating may also act as an additional means of electricity cost reduction.
Arguably, even though on-site power generation encompasses one of the most expensive features to install in a building, biomass, solar, wind, and hydropower remain as some of the most practical and viable ways of mitigating the environmental effects of commercial real estates.
One of the biggest challenges of the commercial real estates is the emission of dirty water into the environment. As argued before, since the main concern of green building is to minimize environmental impacts of buildings, the question of water quality and efficiency of its usage in commercial estates comes out conspicuous under the green building technology in relation to the development of commercial real estates.
In this extent, Pushkar, Becker, and Katz reckon, “reducing water consumption and protecting water quality are key objectives in sustainable buildings” (104). Nevertheless, it is also vital to note that green buildings emphasize that resources should not be utilized at a rate that supersedes their rate of replenishment.
Unfortunately, the practical scenario in many commercial estates is that aquifer’s waters are used at a higher rate than it is actually possible to replenish. Therefore, reliability on aquifer water to feed commercial estates does not encompass a measure of going the green way of building.
For this reason, it is desirable that green commercial estates, if at all they are practical and possible to realize, have their water supplies from on-site harvested, recycled, and purified water. One crucial drawback of these approaches is that some of the methods of water purification such as desalination utilize a large amount of energy, which in many nations is currently obtained through nuclear power generation.
In this sense, in terms of providing reliable sources of water, it sounds imperative to infer that it is somewhat impossible to develop a purely green commercial estate since production of energy to desalinate water would lead to disposal of remnants of the nuclear reactions (nuclear waste) into the environment.
This is highly not supported by the ideals of green buildings. The question that is left unaddressed by the green movements is that- is it possible to generate large amounts of energy to purify water for supplying to commercial estates through renewable means of power generation?
Pay Offs and Costs
Many opponents of green buildings cite cost of building as one of the main disadvantages of developing green commercial estates. For instance, according to Pushkar, Becker, and Katz, “Photo-voltaic, new appliances, and modern technologies tend to cost more money” (110). However, in the long turn, green buildings can help to save lots of money.
For instance, Pushkar, Becker, and Katz approximate that $130 billion can be saved by different sectors in the US on bills of energy. They further argue, “Studies have shown that some green buildings have yielded $53 to $71 per square foot back on investment over a 20 year life period” (Pushkar, Becker, and Katz 112). To the commercial real estate’s developers, this implies larger returns on investments in the long-term basis.
Additionally, green buildings attract higher occupancy rates, higher selling prices, and reduced rates of capitalizations. This suggests that investments in commercial estates that are green introduce lower risks of investments.
Arguably, amid the challenges of realizing a purely green building, this benefit provides substantive grounds for sustainability and attractiveness of green buildings particularly in the commercial real estate’s sector.
In the attempt to resolve a myriad of challenges emanating from waste disposal and excessive release or absorption of energy from the environment, this paper has argued that many organizations across the globe are advocating for a change of the manner in which people do things such as building. The focus is towards building green buildings.
Such buildings are designed to consume less energy in lighting and heating, less water, as well as emitting less green house gasses besides providing their occupants with an environment that is healthy. They support harvesting of rainwater.
They are built using recyclable materials. Amid these benefits of green buildings in comparison with conventional buildings, the paper maintains that building purely green commercial estates is problematic. However, bearing in mind the long-term cost benefits and investment risks accruing from building “green” commercial real estates, such estates prove sustainable in the long-term.
Kats, Greg, Leon Alevantis, and Mills Adam. The Cost and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton, 2003. Print.
Pushkar, Susan, Richard Becker, and Arthur Katz. “Methodology for Design of Environmentally Optimal Buildings by Variable Grouping.” Building and Environment 40.3(2005): 97-112. Print.