Positive contribution: why sustainability isn’t just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do

Considering its status as such a hot topic for the building sector right now, sustainability as a focus area is certainly nothing new.

As an industry, the collective, conscious effort to minimise our contribution to global warming has been present for decades. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), for example, which is now used across the world as a sustainable building certification programme, has been 25 years in the making.

But, aside from the fact that the language has evolved beyond simply ‘going green’ or ‘being eco-friendly’, there are important differences in how we talk about sustainability today and how the issue is prioritised by businesses and consumers alike.

Saving energy, reducing costs

Historically, carbon footprint reduction has, for some companies, been a challenge they have accepted with a degree of reluctance, regarding it as a secondary concern or even a by-product of the more pressing objective of saving costs.

It’s easy to understand why. Reducing consumption of raw materials and increasing energy efficiency has a direct impact on the bottom line, and the business will feel the benefit of this financial gain irrespective of the fact that those efforts also help limit the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To use the jargon, it’s a win-win.

Or, rather, it may seem that way. The reality, in fact, can be different. Because in following an approach where saving the planet is secondary to saving costs, decisions can be made where the long-term end goal of sustainability is compromised in the name of additional sales, higher profitability or both. There are signs, however, that those decisions are increasingly being influenced by purely environmental concerns. For all businesses, generating growth and limiting costs remains the key priority but there is no doubt that many are now viewing the world in which they operate through green-tinted spectacles.

Wider awareness of the issue

In part, this has been driven by heightened concern among the public. Collectively, our environmental conscience has been awakened in recent years by the visible impact of consumer culture on the world around us. The shocking scenes in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series brought the severity of plastic pollution directly into our living rooms and the outrage it triggered has continued to gather momentum, expanding outside of its focus on retail and reaching into practically all areas of our lives. This focus has helped encourage the global leaders of big business to start pushing sustainability higher up the corporate agenda.

There is an expectation now that sustainable thinking should be embedded into the design of the world around us. A great example of this is Bloomberg’s European headquarters in the heart of the City of London. Designed by Foster + Partners, the innovative £1.3bn building is not only visually pleasing and sympathetic to the heritage of its location but it is fully respectful of its responsibility to the environment.

Bloomberg says the building pushes the boundaries of sustainable office development and it has the figures to back up the claim. It achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating against the BREEAM sustainability assessment method with a 98.5% score, and the innovative environmental strategies it incorporates deliver a 73% saving in water consumption and a 35% saving in energy consumption compared with a typical office building. Little wonder that RIBA recently saw fit to award the building the 2018 Stirling Prize, with the jury unanimous in their view that it has “not just raised the bar for office design and city planning but smashed the ceiling”.

Building on a sustainable platform

The Bloomberg building is symbolic of the increasing prioritisation of sustainability among businesses in the built environment and a prime reason Bloomberg specified customised products by Fastlane. At IDL, this way of thinking is inherent in our approach. Not only is our product range notably energy-efficient, with each pedestal consuming only 50 Watts of power during throughput and just 12 Watts in standby, but we also work closely with partners to look beyond entrance control alone, uncovering additional environmental benefits for building owners through the smart use of technology. You can read more about our sustainable business practices here.

Integration, for example, is key to realising further energy (and cost) savings. The amount and depth of the data about a building and its users captured by entrance control systems should be considered as intelligence that, if shared, can unlock real energy savings. Access rights, for example, can identify when an area is occupied and by how many people – information that other building management systems can exploit to reduce the energy demand for heating and lighting.

There is also increasing interest and demand for Fastlane turnstiles to work in co-ordination with Vertical Transportation Systems (VTS) and Destination Control Systems (DCS). By directing building users to the most suitable lift, it not only speeds their journey but also minimises energy costs by maximising lift efficiency. Furthermore, if these efficiencies are considered early enough in the building design process, they have the potential to translate into more significant energy savings given that the same throughput of people can be achieved with fewer lift shafts. Read more about delivering time and space efficiencies with integrated lift destination controls here.

Joining the Circular Economy

Stephen Keeping Fastlane HSEQ Manager emptying recycling binAt the same time as working to realise our customers’ ambitions in the area of sustainability, at IDL we are also focused on minimising our own environmental impact. We have achieved the ISO14001:2015 accreditation for our environmental management system, maximising recycling opportunities and minimising our burden on landfill. We also choose to use local material suppliers wherever possible for both quality control and to limit the carbon footprint of our products.

By investing in this focus on reducing materials waste and increasing energy efficiency, we play our vital part in supporting today’s increasingly sustainable building supply chain. It’s also the case that it has a knock-on benefit in controlling costs, so while the environment will – and, indeed, should – influence decisions and investments made by businesses in the future, it remains true that doing the right thing for the planet is also right for business.

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