The return to office is a prime opportunity for corporate real estate owners and business leaders to rethink their commitment to sustainability initiatives. Over the past few years, as the global workforce has transitioned to and from the office, companies have accelerated their commitment to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) projects.
By 2050, almost 70% of the global population will live in cities. With new initiatives like the Urban Nature Index (UNI) seeking to measure the impact of cities on the environment, countries around the world are joining together to address climate change and how our infrastructure can change to reduce that impact.
At every turn, CRE leaders are being encouraged to adopt a sustainable mindset. Investing in more sustainable assets has even been endorsed by President Biden, who released a corporate climate risk evaluation strategy in October to seek financial disclosures from publicly traded companies on climate risk.
Here are the corporate real estate sustainability trends and design strategies to implement in 2022.
Predicted Trends in Sustainable Corporate Real Estate in 2022
Corporate sustainability is not solely in response to climate change. Building leaders and business owners intent on embracing a shift in a more sustainable direction should consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors along with the financial impact of these efforts.
Sustainable corporate real estate trends to watch out for in 2022 include:
Transforming offices into “green” spaces by optimizing office space for employee use and reducing unused real estate square footage.
Right-sizing CRE portfolios.
An emphasis on employee wellness by maximizing natural lighting and ventilation in the office, and incorporating more greenery like gardens and plants.
Investing in climate resistant design and policy changes.
Business Benefits of Corporate Sustainability in the Workplace
Incorporating sustainability initiatives into your workplace design strategy benefits the whole organization — the daily health and wellness of employees, the costs for corporate real estate owners, planet Earth, and your company itself.
How Companies are Incorporating Sustainability in Office Design
Right now leaders in CRE are incorporating sustainability into their current office spaces, redesigning facilities with sustainability in mind, and creating completely new eco-friendly, smart buildings.
By incorporating workplace analytics and industry sustainability trends into CRE strategy, business leaders and workplace strategists can take their assets forward into the new age of the workplace.
Here are four ways that companies can begin incorporating sustainability in their office design.
1. Invest in smart office and facility management technology.
Whether building new office space from the ground up or redesigning an existing facility, investing in smart office tools and facility management technology is a first step to incorporate sustainable practices into your return to office.
Smart building tools can help corporate real estate managers and business leaders to:
Right-size real estate investments and reduce overall footprint
Optimize facility management and cleaning based on real-time employee data
Lower utility use with smart technology like smart thermostats
Improve air quality with sensors that monitor levels in real-time
Identify ways to reduce the company’s carbon footprint
Establish a data dashboard that can monitor environmental concerns and alert stakeholders when changes need to be made
A comprehensive approach to sustainability in the corporate real estate industry includes CRE leaders right-sizing their portfolios. Right-sizing your portfolio is the process of identifying the cost and square footage of your current assets in order to identify opportunities for consolidation to save costs and maximize usage.
However, underutilization of workspaces is not only a waste of money and resources, but a waste of energy as well. By taking the time to right-size their portfolio with an eye on any notable upcoming projections, CRE managers can make more informed and sustainable asset decisions.
3. Transition to efficient lighting, solar panels, and utility management.
The embrace of solar energy has been one of the most notable factors of the commercial real estate sustainability movement. As solar power becomes more affordable to buy and less expensive to generate, more and more property owners are investing in solar energy technology. Additionally, there has been an increase in the use of green utility management strategies such as creating net-zero buildings and clean power.
Sustainability initiatives are a group effort that requires the joint effort of business leaders, facility owners and managers, employees, and surrounding community members. Building partnerships with community organizations is a great way for any company to participate in their local environment, while building good corporate character along the way.
Because sustainability initiatives often expand outside of the office itself, building relationships with community partners allows your company to support ongoing local efforts and participate first hand in actionable sustainability initiatives.
Why is sustainability a rising priority among CRE leaders?
New technology allows CRE managers to better track and analyze their impact.
Environmental standards that require developers to acutely track their carbon footprint have become more strict and closely monitored.
Potential hires want to work for companies that are investing in the environment and seeking out ways to reduce their footprint.
The new commitment to the environment has been evident in investing patterns — mutual funds and exchange-traded funds invested nearly $300 billion in sustainable assets globally in 2020 and there has been a rise in exchange-traded funding for green buildings.
As sustainability continues to be a top priority for commercial real estate leaders, facility owners will carry on with integrating smart office technology and green initiatives into their return to office strategies. To ensure you are taking an informed and sustainable approach, here are 5 Reports that Guide Workplace Strategy in 2022.