As the world strives for a sustainable future, the significance of sustainable buildings cannot be underestimated. Buildings play a pivotal role in shaping our environment, society, and personal well-being. They are the core building block of our communities — as are the tenants in them.
While most discussions around sustainability in buildings revolve around building owners, it's equally important for tenants to embrace the principles of sustainability in their leased spaces. Tenants have the power to directly make sustainable changes and influence owners and management companies to change their views on sustainability.
When we think about leased spaces as fair game for sustainability, the net widens for individual impact. Furthermore, a focus on leased spaces is an opportunity to spark focus on the development sector, which contributes 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
While many building owners and lessors see sustainability as a financial burden, mounting evidence shows the opposite.
As a Tenant, What Are the Benefits of Sustainability?
Living or working in sustainably certified leased spaces offers numerous advantages for tenants.
Lower Utility Costs
Firstly, while building owners are typically responsible for major repairs in leased spaces, tenants are responsible for utility costs. Sustainable buildings are designed to optimize energy, heating, and water efficiency through innovative design and monitoring. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, sustainable buildings can lower energy consumption by up to 30% compared to conventional buildings. This results in lower utility bills for tenants.
Another immediate option for tenants is to implement energy savings practices, like creating policies to turn off lights in unused areas and including energy-efficient appliances. Reducing utility bills, especially in areas with more extreme temperature fluctuations, can make a significant difference in available income. Earlier this year, Forbes reported that lower operating and maintenance costs for sustainable spaces are driving demand for green offices.
Improved Air Quality
Sustainable leased spaces prioritize indoor air quality, ensuring a healthier and more comfortable environment. Features such as proper ventilation, non-toxic building materials, and efficient HVAC systems improve air quality, reducing the risk of respiratory illnesses and allergies among tenants. Furthermore, as tenants, you can apply aspects of LEED and WELL to monitor and track air quality. A study conducted by Harvard found that occupants in green-certified buildings experienced a 26% boost in cognitive function, a 30% reduction in sick building symptoms, and a 6% higher sleep quality.
Sustainable leased spaces also promote a sense of community and well-being. They often incorporate amenities such as green spaces, fitness areas, and natural lighting, which contribute to improved mental health and productivity. Even adding more plants and greenery throughout an office space can make a big difference. A study by the Green Building Council found that over 85% of respondents reported feeling happier and more productive in LEED-certified buildings than in conventional alternatives. Additionally, WELL-certified buildings show a 10% increase in the perceived mental health of tenants.
Access to Green Transportation
Another important consideration is that green buildings prioritize sustainable transportation options, such as bike storage and access to public transportation. If it is not possible to immediately implement these infrastructure changes, companies can provide incentives for employees to carpool or use public transportation. These solutions reduce reliance on cars and encourage greener commuting habits. Not only is this an avenue for reducing transportation costs, which households in the U.S. typically spend close to $11,000 on annually, but it also helps reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which account for 29% of total U.S. emissions.
How to Talk to Your Landlord about Sustainability
While it is clear that sustainable leased spaces benefit tenants, owners often don't see their incentive to make the needed financial investments — particularly when achieving recognized sustainability certifications can be expensive and lengthy projects. Engaging in a conversation about sustainability with your landlord can be instrumental in promoting positive change in your leased space.
Here are some key talking points to consider when discussing sustainability:
1. Cost Savings:Highlight the financial benefits of sustainability. If the landlord is responsible for utility costs, that is an excellent approach. However, LEED-certified buildings also have 20% lower maintenance costs. Emphasize that resource-efficient and smart building upgrades can reduce operational costs and provide a higher ROI for the landlord.
2. Market Demand:Explain that sustainability is not only a moral imperative but also a market demand. There is a growing trend of eco-conscious consumers with an increasing preference for sustainably certified buildings. This translates to 11.1% higher rental rates, a 21.4% higher market sale price, and a 10% increase in asset value compared to non-sustainable alternatives.
3. Health and Well-Being: Emphasize the positive impact of sustainable buildings on health and well-being. This leads to higher tenant satisfaction, productivity, and happiness. For example, WELL-certified buildings show a 28% increase in workplace satisfaction, a 10% increase in employee productivity, and a 26% increase in employee well-being. Overall, this helps develop a better relationship between the renter and landlord and is one of the reasons LEED and WELL-certified buildings have higher occupancy rates.
4. Government Incentives: Inform your landlord about available government assistance for sustainable building practices. A great example is the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which provides tax incentives for energy-efficient new buildings and retrofits. This can help offset the initial costs of implementing sustainable features.
Emerald Can Help Your Leased Space Be Sustainable
Embracing sustainability in leased spaces brings a multitude of benefits for both tenants and landlords. However, a common roadblock to retrofitting leased spaces is a lack of education from both sides.
Engaging in a constructive conversation with your landlord about sustainability can pave the way for positive change. Furthermore, it is important to highlight that owners should implement sustainable upgrades using a recognized certification program, like LEED or WELL. Both certifications provide legitimacy to their efforts and ensure sustainability initiatives are implemented adequately.
Emerald Built Environments offers a range of services to assist in implementing sustainability strategies and obtaining certifications. Learn how you can contribute to a greener future in your leased space!