Green(er) offices needed /ESTON analysis/

The acceleration of technological development, global overpopulation and the resource requirements of our everyday comfort leave a remarkable imprint on our environment. It is not only the next generation to whom environmental protection and environmental management are important – these concepts are serious today.

Changing climates, global warming, the greenhouse effect, a shrinking supply of energy sources – these ideas must be familiar to all of us; still, many perceive them to be problems for the more developed countries only. Online calculators are available to everyone to estimate the size of their ecological footprint (which is an estimate of the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate, if possible, the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste, given prevailing technology and current understanding – Wikipedia), and we can experience how climates are changing first hand in the form of uncharacteristic, unseasonable weather. Obviously, it is not enough to realize that maintaining our modern lifestyle is questioned by more and more surveys; it is not enough to expect greater, or more developed, countries to make the first step to protect our environment. It is we who must act; no one will do it for us.

What should these steps be? We can use recycling bins, we can drive electric or hybrid cars; use public transport whenever possible, and we can choose a green office as well.

Green is good

The term green office refers not to a garden suburb but to environmental planning and management of properties. Although the connection between the greenhouse effect and global warming is doubted by many professionals, the need to reduce the greenhouse gas emission is unambiguously a necessity. Greater gas emission can usually be linked to greater energy consumption; thus, effective use of resources and economy are more than financial considerations. Green office developments are yet rarely available on the domestic office market; this otherwise easily marketable concept is, for the present, realized mostly in owner-occupied buildings. According to our expectations, this is going to change in the very near future, thanks to the increasing competition among developers, as keeping up adequate pace of leasing activities will require the implementation of creative and unique development concepts.
Solar panel

Green is efficient

In many cases the development of green offices requires a greater initial expenditure compared to regular schemes, but extra development costs may return on the medium term, due to more favourable rates of effectiveness. The concept of the environmental management is based on the utilization of renewable energy resources. This may mean supplying an office building with hot water, heating (which is the greatest energy consumer) or even with electricity by taking advantage of solar or geothermic energy, and it may also entail decreasing heating and air conditioning costs of a building by employing ground collectors (systems exploiting the constant temperature deeper underground).

In the case of electricity, unused energy can be sold, which further enhances green building efficiency. An effective way to decrease water consumption may be to use cleansed rainwater, e.g. for flushing toilets, while the effectiveness of air conditioning may be improved by employing special heat reflecting glass and programmable external shades. Greenhouse gas emission of workstations may be abated by optimal operation of office appliances; which in most cases requires minimal effort (e.g. turning off those machines that are not in use), but could also include overall integration and automation of property management systems. Intelligent systems can help reduce management costs to a great extent; for example, via dynamically variable operation of exterior shades and air conditioners according to the current weather conditions and time of day, using sensor-operated lighting or digitalizing security camera records. Cost-efficiency may be increased not only by reducing personal consumption of resources but also by more precise planning of tying up related capacities (e.g. public utilities), decreasing property management numbers and by minimizing paperwork. In case of the above-mentioned efficiency-enhancing developments it is also important that the construction materials and appliances used are produced in accordance with environmental requirements.

Green is not inconvenient

When it comes to environmental protection or saving diminishing energy resources most of us think that it implies giving up the greatest advantage of the civilized world, namely comfort. This, however, in case of green offices, is not the case. In fact, using renewable energies and applying an effective management of resources support the creation of the work environment best suited to the distinct needs of each user. For example, employees in ground floor offices might avoid freezing in their cardigans if top level CEO offices, with extensive glass façade for the best view, can only be cooled to an acceptable temperature with the A/C on the maximum. Optimal usage of resources can be tailored for each rationally determined segment of the building, thus improving working conditions building-wide at a single stroke.

From the tenants’ view

Seeing the advantages of the green concept, the question arises why it has not become more prevalent so far on the Budapest office market. During our short survey we found that in most cases the reason is mundane: developers have not been forced to do so. While major domestic and international companies frequently present PR articles to describe advantages of developing their own headquarters based on an environmental concept, only a few developers employ similar technologies on the office lease market. It is obvious that, because of the higher initial input, developers may count on a somewhat longer payback period. On the other hand, savings on property management support a quicker leasing period and thus, selling the building at a better price. It is also worth considering that some international tenants, acting as responsible companies, prefer office buildings that are demonstrably built according to the environmental concept; and in case of proper supply of such premises they appoint this feature as an obligatory criterion. On the more developed office markets there are auditor companies, similar to those that audit quality assurance systems, to classify green office buildings (e.g. BREEAM, LEED, and Green Star); landlords and developers then refer to the issued certificates in their marketing activities. Until the supply of green offices considerably increases compared to the present, tenants wishing for greener operations are left with optimized space planning and increasing effective use of office resources as far as possible, for example, by reducing paper usage.

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