Sustainability has long been a buzzword but that doesn’t mean it has always been embraced in practice. Companies love to perform sustainability; they don’t love to invest real money in achieving it. That’s changing, though, and this has never been more evident than in the transformation sweeping commercial real estate.

Sustainability and Entered the Building, Literally

The Covid-19 pandemic decimated the commercial real estate sector and the impact continues to hamper the market. When companies emptied their offices and sent employees to work from home, few imagined they’d never come back. One month became two, however, and two became twelve, and all of a sudden nobody wanted to relinquish the comforts of remote work. Some employers pushed back, but many others compromised and this has meant demand for office space has plummeted.

Commercial real estate vacancies are at an all-time high nationwide, and older buildings have been the hardest hit. Companies are cutting down their office space and opting for modern installations that showcase their values and offer amenities available only in new constructions. This is the driver behind the following four trends:

    1. A Preference for Natural (or Recycled) Materials
      Innovative new construction materials allow designers to reduce waste, pollution, and the carbon footprint of their builds. Examples include mushroom-made insulation, carpets constructed from old water bottles, and living walls dripping with lichen, mosses, and plants.
    1. Sustainable Building Methods
      Concrete and steel are the perennial favorites of commercial real estate construction, but the carbon-intensive nature of these materials has driven demand for new, low-impact technology such as cross-laminated timber.
    1. Regulation Changes
      Organic market forces play a big role in the sustainability revolution sweeping commercial real estate, but this is only a part of the picture. Changes in local regulations are another, equally important contributor. Miami, for instance, has introduced a cool roof ordinance for new buildings that requires materials used to deflect heat.
    1. Systems Upgrades
      Construction materials and methods are important, but internal systems matter at least as much. Heat recovery units, for instance, are in record demand as buildings new and old seek to cut their massive energy costs.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed innumerable aspects of our world, and commercial real estate is no exception. Building technology will never be the same, and the world will be better for it.

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