Sustainability-Minded Building: A Guide for Future-Forward Business Leaders

Today’s business leaders have a unique responsibility, and opportunity, to shape a more sustainable world. One area where you can make a significant impact is in how you construct and manage your facilities.

Our Chief Sustainability Officer, Cameron Funk, recently had the opportunity to contribute to the Green Sports Alliance’s (GSA) exceptional new playbook, Building for the Next Generation: Journey to Zero, sharing his sustainability-focused principles for new building projects. The goal? To create facilities that aren’t just functional and attractive, but also respectful to our environment and future generations.

In the playbook, the GSA highlights three areas where businesses can make an impact when developing new buildings and facilities.

1) Water Conservation & Management

We all know that water is a precious resource. Thus, it’s important to consider water-saving technologies and responsible management practices when designing new facilities. The GSA recommends being open to new processes and technologies that improve water efficiencies, water capture, and water reuse.

For example, imagine you’re constructing a new office complex. You might consider practices like:

  • Incorporating rainwater harvesting systems to collect and reuse water for landscaping or toilet flushing.
  • Performing greywater recycling, which involves reusing lightly used water from sinks or showers, to significantly reduce water consumption.
  • Installing water-efficient fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens to save water.

Cameron recommends, “It’s crucial to create flexible spaces that can adapt to advancing waste and recycling technologies. Allot enough space to be flexible when new technologies and streams come online.” For more strategies, check out the GSA’s other playbook, All Sports Are Water Sports.

2) Monitoring, Reporting, and Continuous Improvement

A key element of sustainability is continuous improvement, which can only be achieved through diligent monitoring and reporting. Closely tracking data around usage of energy, water, and other resources is the best way to evaluate the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives over time. Thankfully, new technologies are constantly being developed to ensure better usage monitoring and improvement.

Some ideas for sustainability monitoring include:

  • Installing energy management systems that can track your building’s energy use and highlight areas for improvement.
  • Installing water monitoring systems can identify leaks or areas of high water use.
  • Using smart recycling bins and waste receptacles to help with ongoing monitoring of waste volume.
  • Conducting quarterly or biannual waste assessments to track waste disposal patterns.

Regularly reviewing the reports from these different systems not only helps you spot issues early but also ensures you’re continually improving your building’s sustainability performance.

3) Waste Management and Circular Economy Principles

Embracing circular economy principles means viewing waste not as something to discard, but as a resource to be reused or recycled.

When constructing a facility, consider using recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Once the building is operational, establish robust recycling programs and educate your employees or visitors about their importance.

If you’re building a stadium, for example, you could provide recycling bins throughout the facility and use signage to encourage fans to recycle their waste. Make sure to also educate your employees about your new recycling program to help ensure its success.

Additional Recommendations for Sustainability Building

With the aforementioned principles in mind, here are some key points to consider when building or configuring a sustainable facility:

  • Future Flexibility. As we design for sustainability, it’s vital to consider future needs and changes. Leaving some room for flexibility ensures we can accommodate new solutions or better separate waste streams as our sustainability journey evolves.
  • Local Engagement. Engaging with your local waste and recycling infrastructure provides valuable insight into current capabilities and helps establish important lines of communication. Understanding what your community already offers can help you minimize environmental impact while creating beneficial partnerships. “There have been a number of recent advances in plastics and textile recycling capabilities that didn’t exist just two years ago. Having established lines of communication with those facilities ensures that you’ll be the first to find out about the next advances,” Cameron explains.
  • Data Tracking. It’s crucial to capture and track data related to your building’s sustainability performance. This provides a clear picture of your progress, improves your ESG reporting, and can inspire employees, visitors, or partners to participate in your sustainability efforts. Plus, sharing these successes publicly can boost your brand’s reputation as a sustainability leader.

But what about profitability, you might ask? It’s important to recognize that sustainability and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive. Cameron shares, “with rising tipping fees and increased commodity values, such as plastics, textiles, and metals, recycling can be financially advantageous, especially on a larger scale … advancements in technology and the rise in tipping costs have made sustainable solutions more economically viable.”

Developing the Future of Sustainability, One Building at a Time

By integrating sustainability into your building projects, you’re not just creating a facility, but you’re also demonstrating your organization’s commitment to a healthier, more sustainable world.

Put these principles and recommendations into practice, and don’t hesitate to contact CheckSammy if you’re looking for a long-term sustainability and recycling partner.

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