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What makes a Building Sustainable?

24 May 2022

What makes a building sustainable? According to the World Green Building Council, a green building is one that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts on our climate and natural environment. Green buildings also preserve precious natural resources and improve quality of life.

Green, sustainable buildings are built from environmentally friendly materials. They are constructed using efficient processes. They have low embodied carbon. And, importantly, sustainable buildings are healthy buildings.

When considering what makes a building green and sustainable, the World Green Building Council sets out eight key characteristics:


                       1. Efficient use of energy, water and other resources
                       2. Use of renewable energy
                       3. Pollution and waste reduction measures
                       4. Good indoor environmental air quality
                       5. Use of non-toxic, ethical and sustainable materials
                       6. Consideration of the environment in design, construction and operation
                       7. Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation
                       8. A design that enables adaptation to a changing environment


Let’s explore a selection of these characteristics in a little more detail.


Energy efficiency

A sustainable building is one that operates as efficiently as possible. This means that energy requirements, such as those for heating, lighting and ventilation, should be as low as possible so that energy consumption and running costs are kept to a minimum.

High levels of insulation are vital in maintaining energy efficiency and low running costs. Insulation should be designed in such a way that it fits snugly into the structure of the building so that there are no air gaps.

Renewable Energy



Use of renewable energy

Even the most efficient building will have a need for energy. When it comes to what makes a building green and sustainable in terms of energy, it has to be renewable sources.

A truly green building may use the likes of solar panels and air source heat pumps to supply heating and hot water. An alternative is to choose a renewable energy supplier.

The greenest buildings will produce their own renewable energy as well as use it, so will be giving back to the environment in addition to protecting it.




Pollution and waste reduction measures

A green building is one that implements a reuse and recycling policy. It will also minimise the use of water and energy resources, both during construction and in everyday use.

Responsible waste management is part and parcel of the green building, but when it comes down to it, reducing waste is at the core, educating building occupants so that they adopt a sustainable approach to the use of things like single use plastics and unnecessary packaging, and are aware of how to make greener buying choices.


Good indoor environmental air quality

In terms of what makes a building green and sustainable, there must be a clear focus on improving indoor air quality by reducing the volume of toxins being used within the building’s environment, and by keeping check on inbound pollutants.

Indoor air quality can be negatively impacted by a host of contaminants, some of which are generated inside the building, whilst others come in from the outside. Building materials, furnishings, appliances and office machines and cleaning and decorative products are all potentially harmful, as are pollutants entering the indoor environment from outside, including traffic emissions, industrial contaminants and viruses.

Ambient dampness can also lead to mould and bacteria growth which are harmful to health. So for a building to be green, it needs to be airtight so that the risk of condensation is eliminated. An airtight building doubles up as an energy-efficient building too.


Use of non-toxic, ethical and sustainable materials

In a green and sustainable building, toxic and chemical-based products are replaced with natural, eco-alternatives.

Thought is given to the environmental and societal impact of everything procured for use in the building, checking the ‘ethiscore’ of suppliers and the carbon footprint of products and materials.

Consideration of Occupants


Consideration of the quality of life of occupants in design, construction and operation

Something that can often be overlooked when thinking about what makes a building green and sustainable is the impact the building has on its occupants.

Buildings are designed to have people in them, so it’s vital that they support occupant well-being and can be classed as ‘healthy buildings’.

Healthy buildings will be well-ventilated, have plenty of natural light, and will be built without harmful toxins. They will also allow occupants to control conditions within their own personal working environments.


Again, indoor air quality is a major influencer of building health. Many studies have enlightened us to the fact that indoor air can often have greater negative effects than outside air, with cognitive performance and productivity heavily impacted.

Office equipment and new furnishings can release chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds, which are associated with ‘sick building syndrome’. This is the name given to symptoms that arise when an individual spends time in a particular building. These could be headaches; blocked or runny nose; dry, itchy skin; dry and sore eyes or throat; coughing or wheezing; skin rashes and tiredness, and difficulty concentrating.

For sufferers, the effects can be debilitating. For employers, the cost to business can be significant, ranging from impaired staff efficiency, increased sick leave and staff turnover to extended breaks and reduced overtime, according to the Health and Safety Executive.


Eco friendly building solutions – how to achieve a green and sustainable building using smart building technology

Now we know what makes a building green and sustainable, it’s time to look at how to achieve one. One of the easiest ways is with the use of a smart building management system.

A smart building management system uses Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, blockchain, digital twin, cyber security and cloud technology to monitor and control everything from energy usage, water consumption and indoor air quality, to human activity such as occupancy and heat map, and sounds and vibrations from machinery.

This monitoring collects powerful intelligence from every corner of a workplace, which can then be used to set automations and make decisions that promote sustainability, create a healthier workspace, enhance workplace comfort, reduce operating costs and cut energy and resource wastage.

So it’s clear to see that courtesy of smart building technology, one of the most pioneering eco-friendly building solutions, we are well on our way to achieving a green and sustainable building.


Helping Create Sustainable Buildings

How can Smart Spaces help create green and sustainable buildings?

Smart Spaces is an Internet of Things powered platform that works alongside the building management system, gathering crucial data from every part of a building, including highly valuable energy consumption related data.

The smart dashboard element of Smart Spaces technology makes it possible to set energy consumption goals and create beneficial energy-saving automations, as well as improve indoor air quality, cut resource wastage, and allow individual occupants control over their personal working environments. There is also a predictive analytics feature that makes it possible to optimise energy usage, including across multiple premises.

If you are looking for eco-friendly building solutions and would like to discover how Smart Spaces could help you create a green and sustainable building, please get in touch or request a demo.


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