November 8, 2022

How Can Ageing Commercial Buildings Be More Sustainable?

Buildings, like other structures, age and reach the end of life. Most of the buildings we know of today, both residential and commercial, were probably built around the 80s and 90s, implying they are past 40 years. These ageing buildings are less energy efficient and could easily damage user's sustainability rating. With modern buildings being way safer and more appealing, the big question is, “how can we improve the ageing buildings to make them sustainable?” This post takes a closer look at ageing buildings to demonstrate the importance of making them more sustainable. We will also highlight expert strategies that you can employ to increase the sustainability of these old buildings, making them more efficient and not left behind by new building technologies.

ageing building

What is a Sustainable Building? 

Sustainable building is a type of building that focuses on increasing the efficient use of resources, such as energy and water, while cutting down negative impacts on the environment and human health in its lifespan. To determine how sustainable a building is, the impacts are looked at from the viewpoint of its entire lifecycle, including designing, construction, maintenance, and operations. 

As stakeholders’ demand for sustainability increases, building managers, company offices and institutions that use old buildings have to be creative to make them green. This means looking at laws and policies on building design and adopting new systems to make the structures green. It also involves using creative strategies to make the structures more eco-friendly. As we are going to demonstrate shortly, you should look at the impacts from a broad perspective to optimise the benefits. 

Benefits of Making Ageing Buildings Sustainable 

  • Helps to make the buildings more compliant with different policies and laws in Singapore. 
  • Ensures the building uses less energy. 
  • Increases the productivity of people working in the building’s offices. 
  • Crucial in cutting down water use in the building. 
  • Helps to improve the health of building users.
  • Very useful in improving the value of a building. 
  • The offices become more enjoyable to use. 
  • Comes in handy in protecting the environment in the neighbourhood. 

The benefits we have listed in this post are only a few of what you should expect from improving the sustainability of an ageing building. Remember that no matter how the building appears, there is something that you can do to reduce its negative environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts.

6 Special Tips to Improve the Sustainability of a Building

Below are some of the tested and proven expert tips that you can employ to transform an ageing building into a sustainable landmark. 

Cut Down Water Use for the Building 

Old buildings consume a lot of water and you should consider cutting this use as the first step towards sustainability. While some might argue that reducing water use is hard, it might be way simpler than anticipated. Here are some suggestions that you should consider to reduce water use: 

  • Install low-flow plumbing fixtures in restrooms: These fixtures help to cut down the amount of water that people use on the tap, faucet, or sink. Good examples of these fixtures include sink aerators, flush valves, and low-flow faucets. 
  • Install touch-free faucets: These faucets work by releasing water only when a person's hand is underneath. Therefore, you are sure to remove the risk of leaving the tap running for hours, on a weekend or overnight because the last person forgot to turn it off. 
  • Enhance the efficiency of cooling towers: These towers help to remove heat from the air conditioning of an air conditioning system. Because the cooling towers lose water constantly through evaporation, they can increase the overall water use in a building. Therefore, checking their effectiveness and, indeed, that of the entire HVAC system can help to reduce water use and enhance the sustainability of your building in Singapore.
  • Shift to alternative cleaning methods: Instead of cleaning the building with water, an alternative like vacuum cleaning might be a better option. The process clears dust and other debris, helping to reduce the amount of water needed if traditional washing is used. 

Install and Use Smart Lighting Management Systems 

One of the characteristics of modern and sustainable buildings is the use of advanced smart systems. Therefore, you should consider bringing the same type of technology to ageing offices or buildings to make them more sustainable. These controls use sensors and artificial intelligence to create new possibilities and give office users a better experience. 

The most common of these is the advanced building lighting automated control systems. The systems provide continuous monitoring to ensure that lamps are only switched on when needed. They also integrate predictive analytics to predetermine lighting for offices, corridors, and other areas in and predict energy consumption. The systems re very effective when targeting to progressively cut down energy-related power bills and carbon footprint.

Use Natural Lighting to Cut Down on Energy Use 

Does the design of your building in Singapore have poor lighting that makes you keep the lamps on all the time? The good thing is that Singapore receives sunshine all year round, and you can use this advantage to cut energy use. You can rework the building design so that the windows of all the offices in the building face the direction of sunlight. If it is impossible to redesign the entire building, consider opening up some parts to allow natural lighting.  

You can also reorganise the entire building to create more open spaces for natural lighting to get through. More people love to work outdoors and you will find them leaving their offices to work in the open spaces as they interact with others in the building. So, move a step ahead and integrate the open sections of the building with plants to make the building more attractive.

Plant Vegetation in and Around the Building 

One of the biggest threats facing the planet today is global warming. According to the UN, the planet is faced with a great danger if we do not negate the current rise of atmospheric temperatures. In addition to cutting down greenhouse gases (GHG) in your ageing building, you should also use every available strategy to clear the carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The best way of doing this is by increasing vegetation cover. 

By planting vegetation in your ageing building, it will be more appealing to both occupants and new tenants. The best options to consider for an already established building are the potted plants. They are easy to move and can be introduced inside the offices and corridors to create the expected appeal. 

You can also consider adding plants around the ageing building. More plants around the building will not only help to make the air around the office fresh but also sink more carbon from the atmosphere. Indeed, you can make a bigger sustainable impact on your ageing building by supporting greening projects in the city and across the globe. For example, you can clear thousands of tons of carbon dioxide by restoring forests in the tropics. 

Remove Harmful Materials from the Ageing Building 

The concept of sustainability cannot be complete without factoring in the health of the occupants. For the ageing buildings, especially those built before the 1990s, there is a risk that the materials used to construct contain harmful components.  Therefore, you have to clear them from the building and guarantee users of a healthy environment. The most notable of these materials include: 

  1. Asbestos: This material is common in many insulation systems of ageing buildings and it releases fibres that can be inhaled. Asbestos has been banned in Singapore because exposure can result in mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. 
  2. Mould: Materials used to construct a house can age with time, especially when not maintained in good condition. Plumbing lines are no exception. When they start leaking and the dump surfaces are not dried immediately, there is a danger of mould developing on the ageing building. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to moulds can raise the danger of suffering allergic rhinitis, asthma, infections, and other upper respiratory challenges. 
  3. Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of combusting carbon-based fuels. Ageing buildings with poorly maintained open fires or boilers raise the danger of releasing high levels of carbon monoxide. Therefore, offices or rooms with boilers should be checked regularly to ensure the systems are working well. You might also want to install automated sensors to check the levels of carbon monoxide in the rooms. 
  4. Lead: Lead is a heavy metal that is pretty common in many ageing buildings. When it gets into the body, it bio-accumulates to high levels and could ultimately cause damage to the nervous system. Common sources of lead in ageing buildings include lead-based paints, faucets, and pipes.

To ensure your building in Singapore is free from harmful materials, consider working with experts who check every component and its levels. Then, they use advanced technologies to clear them and give your building a clean bill of health. One of the methods used to clear these materials is encapsulation

Use CONTINEWM to Improve Energy Efficiency in Your HVAC System 

CONTINEWM is one of the latest technologies used in offices and buildings to help improve the HVAC system's energy efficiency. It would also come in handy in helping to make your ageing building more sustainable. With CONTINEWM, you can enhance the energy efficiency of your HVAC system by 50% or more. The device works by clearing positive electrostatic charges that cause resistance to airflow in an HVAC system. The effect is a smooth flow of air through the HVAC system and enhanced efficiency of the system. As a result, you can easily save up to 25% on average on your AC bill by adopting this innovative technology.

In addition, CONTINEWM helps to remove bad odours, which is crucial in improving the air quality inside ageing buildings and creating the best working environment. Remember that the device is affordable, easy to install, and requires very little maintenance

With the adoption of sustainability increasing year after year, you can also get counted by transforming your ageing building or office in Singapore. The tips we have listed in this post can help you achieve the targeted sustainability goals, making it attract more clients because of the improved working environment and aesthetic appeal. The techniques, such as CONTINEWM and smart lighting management systems, also give you the satisfaction that your efforts are helping to make the planet a better place for all while saving significant amount of energy and money. Remember to partner with other firms, both locally and internationally, such as Climate Fresk, to move together for more sustainability-related achievements.