May 02, 2024

Boost Commercial Real Estate Sustainability: 5 Energy Efficiency Innovations for Climate Resilience

Adaptation | by Alexandra Jones, Contributing Writer | 2 Minutes

The right property adaptations can prevent damage due to climate-related hazards like extreme heat and cold, reducing energy usage and costs in the process. That means savings and lower carbon emissions for real estate investors and building owners. Homes and commercial buildings consume 40 percent of energy used in the US.

Here are five new and emerging insulation and energy efficiency innovations that can help climate-proof existing construction and facilitate climate-resilient new construction.

1. Dynamic Glass

“Dynamic” or “smart” glass automatically darkens when hit by sunlight,  reducing glare and helping to keep buildings cool, reducing the need for air conditioning and saving energy as a result. Dynamic glass can be incorporated into new construction or added as part of retrofitting projects in which glass windows are being replaced.

2. Cool Roofs and Green Roofs

Cool roofs absorb less solar energy than traditional roofs, helping to keep buildings cooler. There are multiple approaches to creating a cool roof. One approach is to coat a roof with light-reflecting paints, tiles or other materials. Another approach is to create a living roof, also called a green roof, which has a vegetative layer that reduces rooftop temperature and adds insulation. Both types of roofs can help mitigate the heat island effect in urban areas. Green roofs are also aesthetically pleasing – a bonus for residents and investors alike.

3. Heat Pumps

Upgrading HVAC systems can be critical for adapting buildings to the impacts of climate change. Maximizing heating and cooling efficiency could result in 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in global energy use, according to non-profit Project Drawdown, a coalition of researchers that evaluates climate solutions. Heat pumps can improve energy  efficiency and promote cost savings. The technology works the way it sounds: By transferring heat. In winter, it helps bring heat from an outside source to inside a building; in warmer seasons, it pumps heat from the building to the outside, helping to maintain a cooler internal environment.

4. Passive Architecture

Buildings with Passive House certification need minimal energy to heat or cool their interiors, potentially cutting energy usage by as much as75 percent compared to non-passive buildings, according to The New York Times. Passive architecture can minimize energy needs through thoughtful solar orientation,, airtight construction and high levels of insulation. New developments can be designed with passive architecture features, and existing buildings can be retrofitted with passive principles in mind.

5. Deep Energy Retrofits

With new construction, builders can scratch with the latest in climate-friendly materials and practices. Existing construction, however, requires retrofitting to adapt to changes in climate and reduce energy costs.

Deep Energy Retrofits (DERs) are holistic efficiency upgrades that cut a building’s energy use by 50 percent or more, according to the EPA. These retrofits  use strategies like replacing exteriors, insulating with sustainable and high-performing materials, replacing windows and upgrading HVAC systems. A deep retrofit can be done all at once or in several stages. In addition to cutting energy costs and carbon footprint, deep retrofits often create a more comfortable and cost-effective environment for occupants.

Energy efficiency comprises just one category of upgrades real estate investors should consider when addressing the impacts of climate change to their portfolios. Investors should also consider Property Resilience Measures (PRMs) to adapt to hazards like flooding, wildfire, and wildfire smoke.

ClimateCheck’s mix of high-level and ground-level data helps investors plan a comprehensive resilience strategy. With the right information, investors can make targeted choices about where to spend on property improvements and risk mitigation, while also adapting their overall investment strategy to a changing climate.

Looking to incorporate climate into your risk assessments?