Top Sustainable Designs Trends in Commercial Real Estate

Many real estate investors are turning towards sustainable options for building materials, especially to raise the value of the property. Due to decreased operating and maintenance expenses, corporate tenants now also recognise the importance of green office buildings, a significant element in today’s competitive real estate market.

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Sustainable design takes advantage of technological advancements to provide less toxic building materials while ensuring highly efficient heating, ventilation, air-conditioning systems, energy-efficient electrical and water systems, and designs that take advantage of natural light, landscaping, and building orientation to improve energy and occupant efficiency., Pakistan’s smartest property portal, looks at sustainable designs used in commercial real estate across the globe. 


Features of a Sustainable Design

Building orientation and floor plan, water and energy efficiency, material and resource conservation, indoor environmental quality, and construction processes in sustainable cities are all covered in sustainable plans. The goal is to achieve optimum overall performance by correctly balancing sustainable features and costs. The following are some typical elements of sustainable-design buildings that commercial real estate professionals should be aware of while marketing green buildings and determining sale and leasing prices.


Better Lighting


glass used for natural light as an example of sustainable development


More light is produced while using little energy, thanks to advancements in light bulbs, ballast, and fixture technologies. Compared to lighting loads of 2.5 to 3 watts per square foot (psf) in older buildings, good lighting design utilises as low as 0.5 to 0.75 watts psf of floor space. In addition, sensors that assess indoor light levels can adjust artificial lighting levels in response to changing outdoor conditions, and occupancy sensors switch lights off when they are not in use.

Lower lighting levels save money on cooling as well since there is a decrease in the amount of heat generated by excessive illumination. By optimising the available light and decreasing glare, indirect lighting systems conserve energy and improve light quality.


Increased Performance


A building with gardens showing a sustainable design


Allowing sufficient natural light in the room improves visibility while lowering energy consumption. Factors to consider include light transmittance, heat loss and gain, ultraviolet ray transmittance, and the colour/coating of the glass. Glazing systems allow more light to enter, reducing a significant percentage of solar heat gain.

The geometry, location, orientation, glazing, and private office arrangement of a building can all help maximise daylight while limiting heat absorption or loss. Other considerations include window direction and the distance between glass and ceilings and work surfaces.

Advanced ventilating and mechanical systems use high-efficiency filtration systems to boost air-flow effectiveness, provide ample fresh air, and limit exposure to bio-contaminants such as microbial illnesses, fungi, and moulds. Improved ventilation also reduces carbon dioxide levels by removing interior pollutants produced by off-gassing materials such as carpet, adhesives, sealants, furniture covers, paints, and varnishes.


Water Management


A cross sectional diagram of house showing the water management system


Humans are using fresh water at an alarming rate and water management in real estate is of utmost importance for a sustainable city. Therefore, many low-cost methods can save water consumption by up to 30%. Older models of reservoir tanks use 3 to 5 gallons per flush, whereas newer units use 1.6 gallons per flush. Sensor-operated faucets and urinals conserve water while also improving sanitation. Many Western markets now employ waterless urinals since water is scarce. Additionally, choosing drought-tolerant outdoor landscaping might remove the requirement for site irrigation.

Containing stormwater on-site and allowing it to soak into the ground helps recharge local aquifers while reducing pollution in lakes and streams. Rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, and low-profile curbing are examples of sustainable design features that reduce stormwater.


Advanced Materials


A cabinet that contains the washing machine


Materials for construction and finishing are selected according to renewability, recycled content, manufacturing methods, packing, and shipping. Less hazardous construction materials and furnishings are also used in sustainable design. Before specification, carpets and flooring, paints and varnishes, furniture, and other materials are thoroughly researched. The increased production of such items has reduced their costs while boosting their variety and quality.


Top Sustainable Designs

Some of the most commonly used sustainable designs in commercial real estate are:




An automated vacuum cleaner cleans the room


A computerised Building Automation System (BAS) that monitors and controls essential systems in your building can help you save a lot of money on energy. A BAS can also assist you in making decisions on building operations and other energy-saving expenditures. Heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting are some of the systems that a BAS can manage. Test, fix or replace your BAS regularly to ensure that all components are working correctly.


Waste Management


An illustration of recyclable and non-recyclable materials


A large amount of garbage is constantly generated during a new construction project. There are several ways to reduce overall construction waste and reuse or recycle trash to minimise garbage from landfills or incinerators. For each sort of waste, research the best environmentally friendly disposal strategy. Composting and traditional recycling (glass, metals, plastics, paper, and cardboard) can significantly reduce the amount of garbage thrown away.

What kinds of construction waste can be recycled or repurposed?

Construction and demolition (C&D) materials can be saved from landfills by reusing, repurposing, or repurchasing for new productive purposes. C&D materials include the following:


  • Concrete 
  • Bricks
  • Glass 
  • Wood
  • Gypsum, Metals, Plastics
  • Asphalt
  • Used construction materials (e.g., windows, doors, and plumbing parts)
  • Debris from construction sites (e.g., trees, stumps, and rocks)


Design Integration


Plants growing in side house as an example of sustainable design


You might not consider the layout or function of the interior while thinking of “green” architecture. However, businesses are looking for new ways to boost productivity in their offices. Companies assume that by making better use of office space, they will be able to boost employee involvement in achieving corporate goals and generate more income. This is why, as a live-work-play hybrid, mixed-use property for sale has become so desirable.

To accommodate this new corporate, co-working dynamic, builders and commercial real estate investors must plan for and create flexible spaces that feature sit/stand workstations, lounge-like waiting areas, and active meeting rooms. Ceiling heights, room dimensions, furniture, and other amenities must be adaptable and multifunctional.

The flex space strategy has aided in the rise of mixed-use buildings, which are currently a desirable investment for commercial real estate investors. As a result, builders must prepare places for load-sharing opportunities and understand how people work, live, and play in structural surroundings.


Solar Power


A house with solar panels on it


Solar energy is a copious, dependable, and renewable energy source and the purest sort of energy known to man, as it is pollution-free and helps reduce carbon emissions. Commercial buildings rely on electricity for most of their energy consumption needs – which is why it is essential for them to install solar panels. 

This can lower the company’s operational costs significantly over the long term as well. 

Solar panels can be used for offices and businesses. These panels can power  ventilation, water heating, cooling, lighting, and electricity. Installing rooftop solar panels to generate solar energy for your commercial property is also a terrific way to demonstrate to your shareholders and clients that your company cares about the environment and is taking steps to improve it. 


Thermal & Moisture Protection

The materials used in constructing a building are also crucial in sealing the exterior of a structure to prevent moisture, heat, and air penetration. Thermal and moisture protection includes waterproofing, vapour retarders, air retarders, fireproofing, insulation, and joint sealers. Thermal and moisture protection is a barrier installed inside a wall, ceiling, or floor. These also help with increased energy savings, moisture control, reduced noise, climate control, and fire safety.



Employee health has permeated practically every work culture across a broad spectrum of businesses. A building design can also greatly influence generating healthy settings. The following are some instances of how wellness principles are introduced throughout sustainable building projects:


  • Proper ventilation and moisture management are essential
  • Optimal acoustic quality
  • Maximum natural light 
  • Materials containing volatile organic compounds are used as little as possible


According to proponents of wellness settings, these elements are crucial to employee productivity and health. Moisture controls cut down on bacterial development, reducing infections, and improved acoustics lessen the need for medical intervention.




An example of a resilient design


Climate resilience has gained traction in commercial real estate development; building designers have taken a step further by exploiting a natural disaster to improve a building’s performance during any reconstruction process. This approach protects the facility from storm damage while also decreasing future maintenance costs.

So, what does climate resilience look like in practice? When planning a resilient property, builders consider a number of variables. Is it possible to find local materials? Are there labour resources nearby to speed up the resolution of crucial issues?

Builders also search for additional methods to cut project costs, such as utilising fewer (fossil) fuel-based machinery or incorporating renewable energy alternatives, because more robust materials are required to resist anticipated storm damage. 

Climate change investments that help businesses adapt and prepare for climate impacts are beneficial for businesses and will pay off over time. They also help companies become more robust to environmental threats, lowering costs and possible losses. 


Net Zero Energy

Buildings with Net Zero Energy or Net Positive Energy go beyond solar energy. Net Zero Energy (or NZE) buildings produce their energy using on-site renewable energy. The building’s energy costs would be reduced to “zero.” Net Positive Energy (or NPE) is similar to Net Zero Energy (or NZE), except that the building generates more energy on-site than is required to operate it. 

Building a Net Zero Energy or Net Positive Energy building has three main components:


  • Reduce energy loads by significantly improving the building envelope (e.g., support, control, and aesthetics) and energy conservation.
  • Integrate renewable energy technology to power the structure. Solar and wind electric systems, micro-hydropower systems, and hybrid electric systems are just a few examples (both solar and wind).
  • Install a green mechanical system (i.e. a high-performance mechanical system) to vent, heat, and cool the building. Energy recovery ventilation and ground/air source heat pumps are examples of these systems.


Benefits of a Sustainable Design

Building owners and developers benefit from reduced life-cycle and operating costs, increased energy and water efficiency, fewer environmental impacts, and improved inhabitants’ comfort and quality of life in today’s sustainable-design structures. 


Reduced Liability

The sustainable design offers a healthy indoor environment for building inhabitants, counteracting a rise in insurance claims due to poor indoor air quality that leads to sick building syndrome (falling ill in a place when no apparent cause of the sickness can be found). A healthier atmosphere for building occupants is created by improving air filtration and ventilation performance, and carefully selecting materials and finishes that limit volatile organic compound off-gassing. Insurance firms may eventually give premium discounts to certified green buildings.



People who work in green buildings are more attentive and learn faster than those in traditional office buildings. Increased natural light, staff-controlled temperatures, and innovations in glazing and lighting systems – together with careful consideration of the building’s orientation and footprint – create an environment that fosters creativity, employee collaboration, and increased productivity.


Business Achievement

Customer satisfaction, innovation capacity, work quality, employee morale, job satisfaction, employee retention, and operational efficiency are all affected by indoor environmental quality. A more comfortable and pleasant working environment, according to numerous studies, provides an uplifting attitude for building inhabitants.


Saving Money With Sustainable Designs


An illustration of saving money


Economics always wins when assessing the pros and cons of adding sustainable features to a building. Tenants, brokers, developers, and appraisers in commercial real estate must educate themselves on the actual costs of sustainable design in today’s market. While innovative construction materials, techniques, and mechanical system advancements may be more expensive upfront, they can dramatically cut a building’s lifetime running expenses.

When considering green economics, commercial real estate professionals should include long-term operation and maintenance costs. As renters, owners, banks, and communities appreciate the benefits of energy efficiency, these considerations are beginning to influence leases, insurance rates, loans, and other real estate activities.

The following economic benefits can be obtained through sustainable design.

  • Industry research suggests that sustainable-design buildings can command greater lease premiums or be more competitive in an otherwise difficult market. 
  • This competitive edge has already spawned a new green office space market. Builders who are aware of the benefits of sustainable buildings are already taking advantage of it.
  • In the previous ten years, technological advancements in glazing, lighting, and HVAC. This has helped increase performance and cut building running costs. This also increases the value of a building to potential investors.
  • Lower operating costs boost a property’s net operating income, resulting in a higher valuation and sale price. As appraisers begin to factor in the value of green office buildings, improved capitalization rates may emerge, resulting in much higher returns.


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