When it comes to sustainable development, it’s all about resources and how we use them. Whether we’re talking about land, finite resources, water or energy, efficiency and decision-making are crucial when it comes to real estate planning and design.

A new perspective

As we reevaluate our priorities in development, it’s important to evaluate existing building structures to determine if they can be “rescued” and reused, rather than consuming new land and potential wildlife or farming areas. Repurposing structures we already have is always better than creating new ones.

However, the most important phase for sustainability in real estate is the operation stage. “The life of a building could be decades or centuries,” says Sarene Marshall, executive director of the center for sustainability at the Urban Land Institute, “But during that time, how is the building going to operate? How much energy will be used to make it function properly?”

“‘There is an aspect of building for resilience and also building for the future, so that it will withstand its environment.’”

Clean energy

Because energy use is a paramount issue right now due to climate change, real estate development trends are focusing on energy reduction techniques. Which, thanks to technology, are only becoming more affordable and accessible.

Some of the latest trends increasing energy efficiency focus on products and methods that we use everyday, like switching to LED light bulbs or wireless lighting. Other techniques look at individual tenant spaces during the design stage to ensure maximum efficiency, which includes light management, air quality and plug loads.

Building for the future

Marshall also emphasizes the importance of region-specific planning and resource use, as each region has a unique set of resource limitations and conservation goals. “We are increasingly seeing risks from climate change, which affects cities disproportionately,” says Marshall. “There is an aspect of building for resilience and also building for the future, so that it will withstand its environment.”