Understanding Sustainability in Real Estate

The word “sustainable” has become a buzzword in real estate development. Whether you are building a home, office building or apartment building, sustainability is fast becoming a factor in making or breaking a deal. What exactly is sustainability in real estate? Is it just using solar panels or energy-efficient appliances? It is much more. A sustainable real estate project has a number of elements that reduce emissions and save money in the long run. Some of these elements include:

  1. Solar Panels — Although they have been around for some time, the technology behind them has greatly improved in the past ten years. Solar panels, also called photovoltaics, are made up of two layers of semiconductor materials. They are a non-polluting and inexhaustible source of solar energy. There is a cost up front, but the savings will be well worth it in the long run. The panels work best at a 90-degree angle and tilted south (U.S. northern hemisphere). It’s important to note that there must be a backup source, which is utilized during inclement weather and/or during the night.
  2. LEED Certification — LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A building is given this type of certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are four levels: certified, platinum, gold and silver. A building is awarded LEED certification when it has been constructed with sustainable materials and is operating at a high-level of sustainability.
  3. Repurpose Buildings — When builders are able to reuse a building, it is called repurposing or adaptive reuse. The building’s original materials are salvaged and there is no cost for demolition. By reusing the structure, the land is not disturbed as it would be if the structure were torn down. This maintains the woodlands around the building, saving trees (and young forests) from being cut down and animals losing their homes. Also, the building still maintains its character.
  4. Programmable thermostats — Homes (and buildings) today are built with smart technology. There are programmable thermostats to help maintain a comfort level, such as increasing the temperature during the night when people are home and decreasing it when people are at work.
  5. Low-flush toilets — These toilets reduce water wastage due to the number of liters they use. Traditional toilets use about 6 liters, whereas low-flush use 4.5. They are especially beneficial in commercial buildings and resorts.

There are many ways to build sustainable homes that will save homeowners (or property management companies) money as well as support our environment through sustainable methods. Sustainability is changing the real estate landscape by how real estate projects are built and where. This is not a passing trend and should be embraced by real estate developers.

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