Creating a safe and sustainable environment has long been a team effort. Every building, remodeling, relocation, or expansion project creates an opportunity for companies to rethink their sustainability strategies. The CEO, CTO, and Human Resources leaders play a greater role than ever before in decision-making. Before the pandemic, the sustainable building movement was already on the upswing, with the number of LEED-certified projects growing each year.

Now industry leaders are collaborating and problem-solving at an unprecedented level to achieve green building goals. What’s more, social distancing has prompted the industry to get more creative about how and where they share information and results. Webinars, online gatherings, and digital reports like this one give the industry new sources of knowledge and insights.

As we think about the sustainable workplace, we look broadly at the overall structure, but each element of a building plays a role in sustainability.

  • Floor coverings: Non-toxic, easy on the feet, and attractive
  • Air: Clean, well-circulated, and contaminant-free
  • Lighting: Conducive to safety and productivity
  • Plants: Biophilic design has made its way into offices, schools, and other structures
  • Food: Offering healthy options and waste-free packaging is now imperative in cafeterias and restaurants
  • Waste Management: Reduce, reuse, and donate are the principles that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends for commercial structures. 
  • Water Management: Focus on water usage can lead to a savings of up to 40 percent and contribute to employee health
  • Floor Plans: Social distancing while fostering collaboration is necessary
  • Conference Rooms: Energy-conserving lighting, user-friendly technologies, and sustainable materials abound
  • Outdoor Spaces: Outside the four walls, employees want to gather and enjoy fresh air and sunlight
  • Elevators: Accounting for 2-10% of a building’s energy use, these installations are going greener while passengers go up and down
  • Energy Usage: Green builders offer more options for lighting, heating, and cooling than ever before
  • Communications and Distancing:Staying connected while remaining germ-free is essential
  • Transportation: Energy-efficient commuting systems, bike racks, other green options encourage a culture of sustainability
  • Freight and Delivery Systems: How businesses send and receive goods and services is a clear sign of their commitment to a sustainable workplace.
  • Location Expansion: As companies open new headquarters or outposts, they are taking sustainability into consideration
  • Floor coverings: Non-toxic, easy on the feet, and attractive
  • Air: Clean, well-circulated, and contaminant-free
  • Lighting: Conducive to safety and productivity
  • Plants: Biophilic design has made its way into offices, schools, and other structures
  • Food: Offering healthy options and waste-free packaging is now imperative in cafeterias and restaurants
  • Waste Management: Reduce, reuse, and donate are the principles that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends for commercial structures. 
  • Water Management: Focus on water usage can lead to a savings of up to 40 percent and contribute to employee health
  • Floor Plans: Social distancing while fostering collaboration is necessary
  • Conference Rooms: Energy-conserving lighting, user-friendly technologies, and sustainable materials abound
  • Outdoor Spaces: Outside the four walls, employees want to gather and enjoy fresh air and sunlight
  • Elevators: Accounting for 2-10% of a building’s energy use, these installations are going greener while passengers go up and down
  • Energy Usage: Green builders offer more options for lighting, heating, and cooling than ever before
  • Communications and Distancing:Staying connected while remaining germ-free is essential
  • Transportation: Energy-efficient commuting systems, bike racks, other green options encourage a culture of sustainability
  • Freight and Delivery Systems: How businesses send and receive goods and services is a clear sign of their commitment to a sustainable workplace.
  • Location Expansion: As companies open new headquarters or outposts, they are taking sustainability into consideration

Building and maintaining more sustainable workplaces is a collaborative effort. Municipalities, builders, developers, multi-family building owners, property managers, and CEOs of companies all have an obligation to think differently about the places they create and upgrade. Working with sustainability professionals, they must create a roadmap for how they will create structures and environments that reduce waste and foster employee/customer health.

As decision-makers open and construct new locations they have an opportunity to go green from the very beginning of their projects. Retrofitting and enhancing existing structures can be more complex, but provided that the work team is open to new ideas, learn from other projects, and take the time to assess costs and benefits, they will discover cost-effective solutions.

For more on this topic, download our new whitepaper, “Redefining the Sustainable Workplace.”

Business leaders are more focused than ever before on employee health and well-being, especially as they create a new balance between physical space and remote working. We reached out to the movers and shakers of the green building movement and gathered their perspectives on the challenges facing businesses as they adjust to the sustainable, and healthy, new normal. Download it here.

Working from home has become the “new normal” for many businesses. As people return to offices, social distancing and healthier workplaces are imperative. Attracting and retaining the best employees is no longer just a function of corporate culture but also the environments in which they work. 

Air and water quality and ventilation, building systems that encourage social distancing, and other solutions will continue to evolve. The willingness of many companies to allow employees to work remotely will ultimately have an impact on air quality, as commuters establish new at-home routines. 

“The CDC now wants us to highly increase building energy use through ventilating in off-hours, turning off demand-controlled ventilation, etc. Spaces will need to accommodate both collaborating and social distance.”

  • Neff, Kilroy Realty

“COVID-19 has reframed the way we think about building use and occupation comfort. The conversation also includes efficiency upgrades because many new HVAC systems allow for several accessories, like UV sanitizing lights.”

  • Agazio, Motili

“We’ll see automated technology that seamlessly integrates into our workspaces — like automated doorways and fixtures. A phased reduction in density will be evident via people and spaces.”

  • Ahmad, Sustainable Architect

“While we use floor design for aesthetics, branding, and wayfinding, it will also become more prominent in terms of safety — especially to provide visual cues to keep occupants connected but at a safe distance.”

  • Conway, Interface

“I believe that the circular economy will ebb and flow, based on needs and demands…the innovative mindset of the new entrepreneur will help accelerate the movement and steer it in a great direction.” 

  • George Bandy, Global Leader for CSR and Sustainability 

“I’ve become more cognizant of the need to design and build for the challenges of the next decades…not just today.”

  • Sims, American Chemistry Council

For more on this topic, download our new whitepaper, “Sustainability: Yesterday vs. Tomorrow.” You’ll learn the 7 must-know insights defining the future of our industry, post-COVID-19 transformation, powerful innovations, and how companies are becoming more socially responsible.

The term “future-proofing” first came into use in 2007. Originally applied to technology security, it was embraced rapidly by the sustainability community. Natural disasters and the damage to the planet caused by irresponsible human decision-making prompted the building industry to look at how the choices they make can result in irreparable damage to individuals, neighborhoods, and the planet. Today (and tomorrow) everyone involved in the design, development, and building process is held to a higher standard. 

We reached out to professionals who are changing the trajectory of green building and sustainability. This “green dream team” represents a broad and diverse cross-section of sustainability and business leaders, including architecture, manufacturing, design, consulting, and real estate.

They spoke to us about the post-COVID-19 transformation, how innovation will need powerful new solutions, and how companies and brands are expanding their knowledge and commitment to social responsibility.

Common themes that emerged about the future of sustainability from this group are:

  1. The need for true collaboration and sharing of best practices across industries
  2. Automation as a lever in creating solutions and in data reporting
  3. An expanded role of socially-responsible corporations in facilitating change and innovation
  4. Emphasis on health and well-being of individuals and communities in the post-COVID-19 environment
  5. The ongoing need to track and report the short- and long-term financial benefits of sustainable building

 Here are their powerful insights for the next decade. 

“Along with the continued move toward collaboration, I am excited to see the impact institutional investors can have on effecting change. I look forward to the changes future generations will dream up that are unimaginable today.” 

“There will be a huge focus on people and the impacts of all actions that affect people’s lives, quality, accessibility, equality, health, etc.….We will see a major shift in how all stakeholders approach corporate sustainability. In the long-term, there really needs to be a better plan for infrastructure in cities and overall public transportation.”

“In 10 years, I believe we will improve reporting and move the needle on social impact. There is no better time to redesign the new normal.”

Solar photovoltaic technology, battery storage, and the use of electric vehicles will be at the forefront of commercial energy storage. National energy codes and local state financial incentives will recognize and mandate the implementation of solar-ready infrastructure and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.”

“In three years, automated sustainability will take hold as the wave of IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G spread across the nation. I expect to see many smart devices that help homeowners and building operators monitor electricity, water use, and potentially trash and recycling volumes. Automation will pave the way towards inherent building sustainability. Within 10 years, I expect to see huge strides towards carbon neutrality nationwide. The major changes will be around energy use rates and grid mix transactions to renewables. I would also expect a higher responsibility of action placed on major manufacturers.”

  • Maria Agazio, Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Lead, Motili

“In the short-term, I think environmental sustainability will take a back seat to health and wellness in the built environment. I think we’ll see larger strides in the electrification of buildings, renewable energy, and energy efficiency as more new buildings move toward net zero goals and have carbon neutrality goals.”

“We’ll see materials advances – especially nanotechnology based advances in areas like insulation and super windows. 3D printing will be applied to affordable housing using sustainable materials and reducing construction times. AI tools will lead to the expansion of generative design and integrative design.”

  • Roger Duncan, Author, former Research Fellow at the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and former General Manager of Austin Energy. Co-author with Michael E. Webber of the upcoming book, The Future of Buildings, Transportation and Power (August 2020)

“There will be an increasing focus on understanding physical climate risk, and disclosing that financial impact to investors.”

“In the near future, sustainability will be better focused on our independence and interconnectedness. Stakeholders are starting to align their contributions to the broader interrelated system to achieve better results. An excellent example is how utilities, solar companies, and builders all impact the sustainability and monthly cost of buildings — the largest segment of energy consumption globally…Sustainable energy doesn’t result unless these separate groups coordinate the results and support each other’s initiatives.” 

For more on this topic, download our new whitepaper, “Sustainability: Yesterday vs. Tomorrow.” You’ll learn the 7 must-know insights defining the future of our industry, post-COVID-19 transformation, powerful innovations, and how companies are becoming more socially responsible.