Is sustainability actually expensive? After all, aren’t you funding it from the saved energy costs?

In the news, on social media, and just about everywhere you turn, someone is talking about the importance of minimizing our impact on the environment, especially in the workplace. Organizations are under pressure to reduce costs while still achieving sustainability targets. This is one of the most significant conflicts within the sustainability phenomenon.

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Or is it?

No matter how often it is thought that cost savings and sustainability don’t go hand-in-hand, practice has shown otherwise.

Research by the University of Toronto has shown that 27 cities are responsible for 9% of the world’s electricity consumption. And this while these cities “only” accommodate 6.7% of the world’s population. This study also shows that electricity consumption is linked strongly to the built floor surface area.

Making real estate sustainable is a smart and future-proof way to reduce electricity consumption. Sustainability often is associated with new buildings. After all, new buildings are well-suited to the application of modern, energy-saving technologies. “The Edge,” Deloitte’s multi-tenant office building in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district, is a splendid example of this. But what happens with existing buildings? Making existing buildings sustainable is often not tackled, because it is assumed it will be expensive, and the yields from this expenditure will only end up benefiting the tenant. And that’s a missed opportunity, because 99% of buildings are in fact part of the existing building stock.

The study by the University of Toronto mentioned previously shows that extra taxes have succeeded in reducing electricity consumption in London, despite the economic growth. So, are compulsory rules the answer? Or should it be practical tools that provide insight and offer methods with which to achieve energy savings?

Making existing buildings sustainable and reducing costs can coexist perfectly, as the example of Triodos Bank shows. “Forget reducing the negative impact; go for increasing the positive impact,” insisted Guus Berkhout, Fund Manager for Triodos Bank, during the Planon MasterClass. Presence detection, heat and cold storage, a heat exchanger wheel: their building—constructed in 1959—in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, is full of energy-saving tricks that are not visible to the naked eye. Despite its age, it was in fact suitable for the latest “sustainability tricks.” Triodos Bank believes this will let it reduce its annual energy costs by half. Did they need compulsory rules for this? Or do they understand the principle of “rethinking” the way we view and approach sustainability?

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