How to Maximize Your Industrial Space for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Whether you’re redeveloping old commercial real estate or constructing a new building, sustainability is a major consideration for CRE projects today. In fact, commercial buildings are responsible for 38% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Many organizations are measuring sustainability as it aligns with core environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. And while sustainability can also refer to economic and social factors, environmental longevity is particularly relevant for industrial buildings that consume significant resources in normal operations.

Read on to discover actionable approaches to reduce the carbon footprint of an existing facility—and why it’s important to consider the long-term effect of your industrial space on the environment.   

Why Is It Important to Operate a Sustainable Facility?

Commercial buildings contribute more than one third of greenhouse gas emissions annually. And when 75% of buildings will be new or renovated in the next 30 years—significantly increasing resource consumption—responsible tenants should work to reduce their environmental impact now. 

Sustainable facility improvements can also create better working conditions for industrial workers. Natural light can improve employee mental health, while the reduction of CO₂ and other airborne pollutants decrease the likelihood of facility-related illnesses.

An increased focus on energy efficiency and sustainability can also lower the operational costs of your industrial facility. Government incentives, like energy efficiency tax deductions, may be available to offset the costs of sustainable upgrades to cooling, heating, and lighting. These upgrades can in turn lower the costs of utilities.

The transition to a sustainable facility may be a significant investment, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The following changes can build momentum to create long-term impact. 

5 Strategies to Upgrade a Sustainable Facility

Legacy industrial spaces were likely not built with the latest energy efficient technology, but it’s possible to retroactively implement strategies like the following to create a greener space.

1. Renovate up instead of out.

Many tenants look to build “out” when making renovations to an existing industrial facility. Instead, consider building “up.” In industrial facilities, this often means removing the existing roof and adding ceiling height before replacing it. This can reduce the envelope space of a building, ultimately decreasing electrical and material waste. 

Reducing a building’s envelope, or the space between the interior and exterior of a building, can improve the efficiency of HVAC systems by limiting the space’s interaction with outdoor temperature fluctuation. 

Industrial employees can also make more efficient use of vertical space by stacking materials, increasing floor space and decreasing lighting waste. 

2. Switch to LED lights.

LED lights can reduce maintenance costs, materials, and time by lasting up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. Unlike fluorescent bulbs that hum, LED bulbs are silent and, consequently, less distracting to workers. They are also designed to resist changes in temperature, making them ideal for building exteriors and outdoor spaces. Additionally, organizations can use LED bulbs with motion sensing technology that turns off lights when they are not actively in use.

3. Conduct preventive maintenance.

Software, like cloud-based CMMS, allows you to monitor equipment at all times and conduct preventive maintenance. This keeps utilities and machinery operating at peak performance, reducing downtime and the amount of energy used.

When utilities and machinery are operating inefficiently, replace them with new, sustainable models. 

4. Leverage natural resources.

Natural resources can reduce your reliance on non-renewable energy and lower your utility costs accordingly. You may, for example, install solar panels to heat or provide electricity for a sustainable facility.

Many industrial spaces have only small windows, but roof windows and skylights can still be utilized for natural light.

5. Participate in recycling programs.

Recycling can help reduce waste, cut carbon dioxide emissions, and save fossil fuels. It can also increase economic security: When recycled materials are used in production, organizations rely on domestic resources rather than importing goods from other countries. 

Some materials, like batteries and fluorescent lights, call for special recycling and disposal protocols. Research what is legal in your state.

The benefits of a sustainable industrial facility can’t be achieved overnight, but it’s critical to make these changes now to save money, protect your employees, and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. 

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