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.