Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Samuel Doyle
Last updated: April 5, 2019
When attempting to argue the case in favour of sustainable practice in commercial buildings, it is important to ascertain exactly what is meant by the terms used in the question.
The definition of a commercial building is not quite as straightforward as one would think. It is commonly agreed that they are certainly not residential.The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, (CBECS) an information source of energy statistics for the US Government, defined a commercial building as “an enclosed structure with more than 50% of its floor space devoted to activities that are neither residential, industrial, nor agricultural. ” (Energy Information Administration, 2004). Other sources, however, define commercial buildings as anything other than residential, including industrial, contradicting the CBECS, saying commercial buildings should be defined as any building other than residential including those “constructed for industrial or public purposes.
(US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2004) For the purposes of this debate, we shall regard the definition of commercial buildings to lean more towards the former definition: we are referring to those structures that are not residential, industrial or municipal buildings, such as those used for offices and retail purposes.The principles of sustainability in this context are very broad in their scope and thus difficult to define. The United Nations defined sustainable development as “.
.. evelopment which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ” (UN World Commission, 1987). The Stationery Office outlined four basic objectives in light of the United Nations’ core definition: First, social progress which recognises the needs of all in society must be met; second, the environment must be protected; third, natural resources must be used prudently; and finally, economic growth and employment must be maintained at high and stable levels. (The Stationery Office, 1999).Having regard to the above definitions, this discussion of sustainable development in the context of commercial buildings is divided according to the elements forming the Triple Bottom Line: the environmental, social and economic factors associated with sustainability. The state of the environment is in decline.
Estimates suggest that stocks of the essential raw materials oil and natural gas will depleted within 70 years at the present rates of consumption. New sources of sustainable energy are required to maintain Western society’s rates of production and lifestyle.Contemporary environmental concerns include that of climate change, which suggests our way of life is damaging the earth’s natural balance with catastrophic consequences. While issues such as these are on the grand scale, the problems faced should be treated with collective responsibility, which includes commercial building practice as much as anything else.
The difference commercial buildings alone could make are marked; in the USA alone businesses use an estimated 36 billion KWH of electricity per year. When this figure is translated into CO2 emissions, it equates to the same amount as the day to day usage of 12 million cars.Moreover, in the case of the UK, it is estimated that the energy consumed by the UK building stock in the maintenance of comfort conditions approximates to 50% of the total energy consumption in the country (Langford et. al. 1998:2). In view of these developments, the implementation of sustainable practices in the commercial building sector can have a significant impact on these and other environmental issues. Sustainable practices in commercial buildings can have a beneficial social impact for those both directly and indirectly involved with the building.The 21st Century has seen new demands and standards of expectation of commercial buildings with regard to health and safety, working conditions, and amenities.
Sustainable buildings use safe, non toxic materials which minimise the risk of serious illness. This carries mutual benefit to landlord and tenant, as the landlord will not have the liability of the tenant should such legal situations arise. The more pleasant working conditions of a typical sustainable building have also been shown to increase employee productivity.As employees are a typical office’s highest cost per unit of floor area, this carries great importance and value. Sustainable building has also been shown to encourage social interaction outside of the working day, and in some cases can draw communities closer together. The social aspects of sustainable building can dramatically help in improving a company’s image, again carrying with it a positive impact. While the environmental and social aspects of the triple bottom line receive the greatest attention from both government and interest groups, the economic pillar is in many respects the most important.
This is certainly true in the case of commercial buildings. The importance of economic sustainability in this context derives, on the one hand, from the character of the supply of commercial property and, on the other hand, from the dynamic nature of demand for commercial property: The profit motive underlying the development and ownership of most commercial buildings in market economies dictates that these buildings should generate rents for as long as possible by being adaptable, flexible and, in general terms, competitive.Economic sustainability is also implicitly related to social and environmental criteria: through the implementation of new technologies they are able to save the owner considerable sums in saved energy costs, for example. The relatively small premium necessary for a ‘Green Building’ is a small price to pay for the long term benefits of sustainable design. The payback period is usually short, and once this has been achieved, a business will make large savings, minimising lost profits. Environmental SustainabilityThe general concept of environmental sustainability refers to the necessary balance between human wants and needs and the capacity of the natural systems of the earth. Commercial buildings can be sustainable using sustainable design.
The key principle of sustainable design is its focus on environmentally sensitive development, design and construction, which should produce an absolute minimum of pollution and aim to repair environmental damages of the past (DETR, 1997). In commercial development, environmental sustainability can be achieved through sensitive construction practices.Site selection and planning should preserve a site’s integrity through natural landscaping. Moreover, sustainable site planning for communities is found in strategies that reduce urban sprawl, renew existing infrastructure, and provide a better sense of community and identity to blighted areas. Furthermore, sustainable construction strives to conserve energy by providing buildings that minimize energy use and utilize renewable sources of power – efficient fenestration optimises the penetration of natural light, and dimming systems may be incorporated to control day lighting and maximizing lumen maintenance.Light spillage in exterior lighting may be minimised by using directional.
Renewable energy can be used in order to build in an environmental sustainable way. This refers to naturally occurring sources of power, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Renewable energy resources can serve a variety of functions, including solar-powered hot water heating and wind-generated electricity. When it comes to construction materials, there are three main sustainable design goals: reduce materials use, use renewable resources that are environmentally friendly, and reduce construction waste.To reduce materials use, look to materials that do the same or more with less, such as engineered lumber, steel framing, and roof trusses. The use of renewable resources includes the recycling of building materials from post-industrial or post-consumer recycled waste. Material waste can be avoided at the construction site by using prefabricated construction systems and by means of accurate planning to avoid leftover materials. In a sustainable design facility, the indoor quality should be physiologically and psychologically healthy.
The advantages for the individual are obvious, but this can also positively impact facility owners by decreasing employee absenteeism, increasing productivity, and lowering the risk of potential lawsuits. Finally, low water use design, storm water management and wastewater treatment and reuse can help to create environmental sustainable projects (http://www. greenbuilder. com). Two examples demonstrate that commercial buildings can be environmental sustainable: First, Stockley Park is regarded to be the foremost European business park.
It is situated on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport and benefits from excellent transport links in the form of the adjacent M4 motorway and nearby rail links to London and the rest of the UK. It was opened in 1993 following a multi-million pound project to restore a wasteland of gravel pits and refuse tips which began in 1986. It took contractors 18 months to move four million cubic metres of rubbish, clay and gravel. The construction of the project on an environmentally devastated and technically challenging site is one of the main reasons why the project is a beacon of environmental sustainability.It was a clever decision which can be a successful example for other similar projects. The buildings of Stockley Park are designed to maximize the use of natural daylight and minimise the need for heating and cooling energy power. Moreover, in order to minimise construction waste on site, the construction company established waste transfer routes to ensure that wherever feasible, waste is sent for recycling or sent to a materials recycling facility.Also, all site staff are appropriately trained in environmental procedures through induction training that includes exposure to the relevant environmental issues.
Finally, Stockley Park has created a successful transport plan which committed to reduce car use for commuting by twenty percent over the five year period (http://www. stockleypark. co. uk/). In the case of Canary Wharf, the project was constructed using a range of measures to minimise the environmental impact of the construction activity, focusing on waste management, water pollution, and the use of renewable resources.Furthermore, the Canary Wharf Estate has succeeded in reducing the percentage of employees that arriving by car from twenty two percent to eleven percent (largely as a result of improved public transport links).
Also, the Canary Wharf Estate succeeded in reducing construction site waste by reusing and recycling. In order to encourage all tenants to adopt best practise with regard to waste management, the Estate developed and implemented a campaign to increase paper recycling, and issue briefing documents to all retail and office tenants on good waste management practises (http://www. canarywharf. com/mainfrm1.
sp).Social Sustainability Interface sustainability (2004) states that social sustainability is “focused on the development and process that promotes social interaction and cultural enrichment”. As such, social sustainability suggests that the preservation of historical and natural heritages and local culture should receive particular attention in building design and construction. Moreover, it requires the preservation of equal opportunities for socially disadvantaged and disabled people and that the costs and benefits of preserving these opportunities are distributed among different social and ethnic groups.With a view to the longer term, social sustainability entails reducing the costs of present-day development for future generations – future generations should have the same or enhanced social and environmental development opportunities as we do. What follows is a discussion of three instances of commercial development (two on a large scale and one on a smaller scale) where the principles of social sustainability have been successfully fulfilled.
The first, the Bluewater shopping centre, supports social and cultural equality in the present-day while serving as a salient example of site-use that has positive ramifications both environmentally and socially. The second, Canary Wharf, is arguably the highest profile European specimen of inner-city regeneration and makes a substantial social contribution both now and in the future to a neglected and disadvantaged part of London.The third, the Inn of the Anasazi in New Mexico is an example of a commercial development that has enhanced the contribution of an existing building to its social and cultural milieu. Bluewater is the largest retail centre in Europe housing over 330 stores.
It was built in a disused chalk quarry, located near Dartford in Kent and comprises of a variety of shops, from designer outlets to low cost fashion and domestic goods.The centre has an array of social sustainability advantages by virtue of its design: it brings people together by offering a range of facilities that go beyond the boundaries of shopping: there are specially designed parking spaces allowing easy access to the centre for those with special needs; indoors, trained hosts are provided, whose services include sign language for the deaf and multi-lingual translation for foreign guests. A number of guides are also provided, published with enlarged print or Braille for those with sight disabilities.In addition the centre provides a hire service for manual or electric wheelchairs and electric scooters (www. bluewater.
co. uk). Bluewater also provides a number of services aimed at families, including baby care rooms, baby changing facilities, bottle warming facilities and a private mothers’ feeding room. All of the centre’s dining areas have been designed for pushchair access and all contain high chairs.
Pushchairs can be obtained free of charge from the concierge desk and there is a fully staffed cri?? che and designated ‘kids village’ where children can be supervised while they play and learn (ibid).The priority of social interaction is also reflected in a range of activities that are available for both adults and children. These include fishing, golf, cycling, boating, cinemas and a discovery trail sponsored by a major clothing manufacturer. Blue water also houses a unique quiet room available to guests, hosts and employees to reflect, pray or meditate and a community room has been implemented for non-profit groups such as schools and charities to hold meetings or give presentations free of charge (ibid. . By contrast, Canary Wharf is a prestigious 35-hectare commercial and residential development in the East London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It comprises 23 office buildings with a floor area totalling 1,200 million square metres.In design terms, the development encourages social interaction by means of its three malls and leisure facilities which total 56,000 square metres.
In addition the development has nine hectares of landscaped open space for its residents to enjoy (‘http://www. canarywharf. om/mainFrm1. asp? strSelectedArea=Lifestyle’). The Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has established a Community Outreach Programme aimed at encouraging contact and involvement with the local community, authorities and support agencies through twenty-four social and environmental targets met between July 2003 and June 2004. These focus on both present-day and future social sustainability by aiming to promote the accessibility of Canary Wharf to the local community and to enhance education levels in the Borough.Specifically, the measures have included the formation of a football academy, local gymnastics club and hurdling squad, the appointment of a CWG local sports development officer and sponsorship of the local football league. The educational programmes are particularly innovative and include the establishment of seven after-school study centres in primary schools, the introduction of a construction apprentice programme and the formation of a wealth of nations conference to encourage private sector involvement in the local community.
The success of the Outreach Programme is reflected in CWG’s receipt of the 2004 Corporate Social Responsibility award sponsored by Colliers CRE (ibid. ). The Inn of Anasazi is a fifty-nine room luxury hotel located off the Governor’s Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was redeveloped in 1991 from an unattractive steel and glass structure used as juvenile detention centre to an adobe style structure with an appearance that looks centuries old. All of the construction materials, furniture and art have been sourced from the local community, encouraging local residents to work together and preserve their culture.Staff are intentionally drawn from all three of the local cultures.
Moreover, native, Hispanic and Anglo and are trained in conflict resolution – a service also offered to other community organisations free of charge (Hawken et. al. , 2000) In addition, employees receive payment to perform volunteer work for two hours per week aimed at promoting cultural awareness in the local community. Staff turnover is minimal, and the Inn holds regular seminars offering advice to other hotels in the area teaching them how to emulate their social sustainability success.The hotel has a celebrated gourmet restaurant and instead of being thrown away, leftover produce is donated to the homeless shelters to help feed the local homeless population (ibid. ).
Together, these examples demonstrate that, either through clever forward-planning or sensitive redevelopment, commercial property can be used to sustain both social interaction people and cultural enrichment. In the case of Bluewater the interaction of people is encouraged through all the facilities offered by the centre and the implementation of access and mobility structures to obtain these.The formation of educational activities and the specifically designated community room all add to the preservation of cultural enrichment. Canary Wharf has been successful not only in obtaining social responsibility for its residents but also for the local community, highlighting that commercial property can reach far beyond its built boundaries.
The Inn of Anasazi has been successful in encouraging different cultures to work together and has helped to spread its success by teaching others how to emulate it. Commercial property may therefore be socially sustainable not only in its own right, but also on a much wider geographical scale.