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5 Easy Ways to Incorporate Sustainability into Retail

Posted on 8/29/2014 7:21 AM by Dustin Watson

PHOTO CREDIT: DICK WOODSustainability has always been a tough fit for retailers. The smaller profit margins under which most retailers operate and the short-term financial deals developers typically use in structuring retail projects make green retail challenging at best.

Recently, though, the tide has begun to turn as retailers have recognized not only the public relations value of “going green,” but also the economic advantages. These benefits include: greater productivity since employees working in green facilities typically have fewer health problems, lower operating costs, and increased interest among prospective tenants.  In a recent survey of more than 1,400 facility management professionals, over 45 percent of respondents identified energy efficiency in buildings as their top carbon reduction strategy.

While green retail is gaining momentum, 2008’s economic downturn continues to shift the attention of many shopping center owners with large portfolios away from building new retail centers and toward retrofitting existing centers. The Institute for Building Efficiency concludes that while roughly two percent of commercial floor space is newly constructed each year, existing buildings represent the most opportunities of improving energy efficiency over the next several decades.

Some older retail centers have gone “all in” on retrofits. Federal Realty Investment Trust, for example, recently installed a roof and ground-mounted 1,146 kW solar panel system at Ellisburg Shopping Center, an aging center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The solar system provides approximately 20 percent of the electric needs for the tenants and common area of the center and an estimated lifetime carbon dioxide reduction of 22,992 tons. 

More commonly, though, retail facility owners or managers are turning to simple retrofits that can be easily – and economically incorporated to make their centers more sustainable. For example: 

1) Thermal envelope improvements (insulation, roofing, windows, etc.): By frequently inspecting their existing building stock for breaches in the thermal envelope caused by gaps, cracks, and missing insulation, owners and operation managers can increase energy efficiency and reduce the risk of indoor air quality problems. 

2) HVAC upgrades: About 40 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings is from their HVAC systems. Substantial energy savings can readily be achieved by increasing the efficiency of the HVAC systems. Have a professional inspect your system and ensure that is size correctly for the heating and cooling needs. Too often systems are too large for the requirements or undersized. Replacing components to match the heating and cooling needs with more energy efficient components could significantly reduce the operational energy costs. 

3) Lighting upgrades: Compared to other energy saving strategies, lighting upgrades are typically the most profitable and easiest retrofit investment. The Energy Cost Savings Council determined that lighting improvements can produce a 45 percent return on investment in an average project payback period of just over two years. 

4) Sub-metering: Retailers – including banks, grocery stores, and companies with multiple buildings require a sub-metering strategy to achieve additional energy savings beyond the traditional upgrades. Sub-metering makes tenants aware of their energy use and when tenants pay for what they consume, they become more prudent. 

5) Waste heat recovery: Recovery of waste heat has a direct impact on the efficiency of the process, resulting in reductions in pollution, equipment size, and auxiliary energy consumption. The use of the heat produced by some building systems can be collected and used for other purposes. For example the high energy demands of refrigeration systems at a food retailer. The reuse of the waste heat from cooling and refrigeration systems can decrease the heating load of the store. 

Double-glazed, low-E glass to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in summer, energy-efficient HVAC units, and energy management systems to monitor the performance of buildings are just the tip of the iceberg. Retail centers can lower cooling costs by up to eight percent by adding lighter, reflective membrane roofs that will reduce air-conditioning requirements. Similarly, outfitting the facility with energy-efficient bulbs, controlling exterior and interior lighting with timers and sensors, and adding tree foliage to help absorb carbon dioxide and shade the building during summer can result in both cost savings and a reduction in energy consumption.

When exploring energy retrofits, an owner or manager should consider the payback period, the return on investment, and costumer perception. A typical energy performance upgrade in the U.S. can expect savings of between 3-15% on utility bills. Simple measures such as swapping out old commercial air handling units with energy-efficient versions at the end of their useful life can help to offset retrofit costs. Periodic reviews of building operating systems and procedures are essential for optimal energy efficiency.

Renewable energy sources will undoubtedly continue to play a larger role in green buildings as fossil fuel energy prices continue to rise. Shopping center owners and retail facility managers must carefully choose priorities when ranking efficiency projects, regardless of whether those priorities are social, financial or environmental. Improving efficiency certainly provides an environmental benefit, but from a financial perspective it is a winner as well. 

Dustin Watson is a partner and director of sustainability at DDG and can be reached at dwatson@ddg-usa.com


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5 Ways Cloud-Ready IT Can Win and Retain Tenants

Posted on 8/25/2014 8:52 AM by Mark Harris

Remember when a decent cafeteria, accessible parking, and affordable utilities were the keys to high occupancy rates? 

All are still important, but tenants have other attributes in mind when assessing the viability of commercial real estate – like sustainability, tenant-controlled environmental management systems, and access to reliable high-speed broadband networks. According to a report by Cassidy Turley, over 60% of commercial building stock is 20 years or older which makes retrofits the right choice for many facility managers. A lot of enhancements fall within the category of information technology (IT), and can be enabled by ensuring the building is cloud-ready. 

More than just a buzzword, the "cloud" is a virtual world of offsite data centers and "software as a service" offerings that shift the IT burden away from the facility manager and into the open arms of third-party providers who manage the infrastructure remotely. 

Much has been written about the benefits of cloud-based services that enable facility managers to significantly reduce hardware costs and IT headcount. But are you aware of the advantages a cloud-ready building can provide when tenants are comparison shopping for leasable space? Savvy businesses are requiring any building they consider be cloud-ready – primarily because having access to the cloud has a direct, positive, and dramatic impact on their bottom line. 

Here are five ways cloud-ready IT services can help you win and retain tenants for years to come: 

1) Disaster recovery / business continuity – Should a natural disaster or other event disrupt business, offsite IT infrastructure maintained in a secure and reliable data center greatly reduces – and often eliminates – operational down time. 

2) Powerful productivity – With vital data and software applications housed in the cloud, workers from numerous locations around the globe – using any type of device – can share files and collaborate on documents seamlessly.

3) Energy efficiency – Eliminating server rooms and the need to keep them powered and cooled 24/7 greatly reduces energy usage including HVAC and electricity costs associated with a tenant's leased space. 

4) Superior security – Keeping IT hardware offsite means equipment and data are fully protected and backed up – vastly reducing a tenant's onsite vulnerability to cyberattack. 

5) Affordable scalability – When business is booming, the tenant doesn't need to invest in additional hardware or IT manpower to accommodate growth. With a cloud-based solution, systems upgrades are handled offsite as are scale-backs during business lulls. 

While the biggest benefit of cloud-readiness is improving your property's appeal to prospective tenants, cloud readiness can also optimize the facility manager's ability to access, control, and automate state-of-the-art computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). If you aren't sure where to start, call your local network provider to assess and upgrade your building's broadband network connectivity for cloud readiness. 

Facility managers who haven't addressed this necessity need to get their heads out of the cloud, and their buildings into it. 

Mark Harris is the senior product manager at Cbeyond, and can be reached at mark.harris@cbeyond.net

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