Why is sustainability important in the industrial sector?

Guest Author:
Charlie Knox, Director of environmental and sustainability services at Paragon

Read time: 4 mins
Category: Ideas

Why is sustainability important in the Industrial sector?

Sustainability is well established as a key factor in the investment and development of real estate. Environmental awareness is probably the greatest it has ever been, and the benefits sustainable buildings can bring are well evidenced.

The notion of a ‘green building’ is often more typically linked to office buildings.  However, there has been an increased trend over the years to provide more sustainable buildings in the industrial sector.

There are a number of reasons why the industrial sector has followed the path of its bigger, commercial brother. Key drivers include decreasing energy and resource consumption and improving operational efficiencies.

The need to comply with regulations, such as EPC certification, has assisted in making ‘energy’ the centre of attention. The real estate industry has tended to focus strongly on energy efficiency, which is probably largely driven by consideration of running costs as the bottom-line benefits are tangible.


Health and wellbeing

On a personal level, the benefits of working in a lighter, brighter building specifically designed to improve the health and wellbeing of its occupants are very tangible to the user.

Environmental sustainability has become very strongly linked to the identity of an organisation, from the products the company sells, to the way it operates and the space it occupies. Buildings with greener credentials are more marketable and attract higher rental income and longer occupancy.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, it is hard not to imagine that health and wellbeing is going to become even more of a prevalent factor in building design and management. It is at the forefront of everyone’s mind on a global scale.


Natural way to boost productivity

Following the mass shift to home working brought on by the current situation, when you ask what people want from a working environment now, most will say natural light, natural fresh air, a comfortable temperature and a connection to nature.

There are various studies which demonstrate that these factors create marked improvement in productivity – a critical point for the typical occupiers of industrial warehousing. The wants of building users are often not complicated or expensive to achieve since the operative point they are making is about having a connection to something ‘natural’.

Natural ventilation, natural light and comfortable building temperatures can be achieved through passive design techniques and the industrial sector can readily adopt such measures. Roof lights can be specially designed to provide light and air into a warehouse for example, which will also drive reductions in carbon emissions.


Managing carbon emissions

Sustainability should not be about ticking a box, or following a trend, it should be to create a meaningful difference. Carbon emission reduction needs to remain high on the agenda.

Whilst in the midst of a global pandemic, focus has switched away from climate change.  However, that too is a crisis that will affect everyone globally, and this must not be forgotten during the current situation.

It has been remarkable to see how quickly governments and citizens have sprung into action to control the virus. With the widely reported positive side-effect that the lockdown situation has had on the environment, it is hoped that individuals and industry will strongly reflect on this and take action to reduce carbon emissions in the longer term.

BREEAM is a helpful framework for developing and operating greener buildings. The briefing paper ‘Assessing carbon emissions in BREEAM’ published in 2016 demonstrated that the average CO2 saving for a BREEAM assessed building is 22 per cent, whilst a BREEAM Excellent building is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 33 per cent.

Carbon reduction might not be as tangible to the financial bottom line, or personal wellbeing.  However, the recent images of once severely polluted cities seemingly transformed by reduced global emissions should speak to all sectors as a call to action in tackling the climate crisis.

The industrial real estate sector needs to take a collaborative approach to sustainability due to the extent of carbonisation through the supply chain. Engagement with occupiers will be essential in delivering the right buildings to increase health and wellbeing for occupiers and allow a reduction in operational carbon emissions.

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