Air conditioning, for example, is a great user of power and water and while air-cooled systems can result in less water use, passive building design can also achieve less reliance on air conditioning, enabling systems to achieve energy savings. If buildings are designed to allow window opening, especially at night, then air cleansing can be achieved without relying on air conditioning, which is a better outcome for the health of building occupants and the environment. Lighting is also another great user of energy, leading to sustainable buildings being designed to take greater advantage of natural light as well as relying on technology to allow lights to be turned off more frequently to save energy.
Night skylines are still too often unnecessarily lit up by office lighting when this can be avoided with sensor systems that switch lights on only when needed. Lift systems can also be an interesting decision point in relation to sustainability since the more energy efficient solutions are noticeably more expensive to purchase and install, which is a factor that investors need to consider – it can cost more to buy a green star rated building.
However, probably the biggest issue in relation to sustainable buildings that is not widely appreciated is that Green Star ratings are only stage one of the process. It is one thing to follow the guidelines and create a Green Star rated building but it is another to persuade tenants and owners that unless buildings are operated as a Green Star property, their green halo can slip.
Ongoing management systems for both the landlord and tenants need to be incorporated into operational initiatives to ensure the building achieves environmental efficiency and there is ongoing cost and effort required to achieve this. Often the biggest hurdle is in persuading tenants of the rules they need to follow to ensure a building retains its maximum sustainability operational performance. This means they need to install green fitouts, which can be more expensive, abide by lighting system rules and manage with less car parking as staff are encouraged to make greater use of public transport.
Offsetting lack of car parking are things like bicycle racks and shower facilities but these link to issues of the wider education process of owning and living in sustainable buildings. These management systems can be more costly and require changes of behaviour which may prove to be barriers for many tenants and owners. In recent times it has not been uncommon for potential tenants, when confronted with a list of rules accompanying lease documentation for occupying a sustainable building, to pull out because of what they see as unnecessary red tape.