Businesses around the world are stepping up to the plate and improving the sustainability of their practices. Individuals strive to shrink their carbon footprint, leading them to purchase their goods and services from eco-conscious companies. When businesses adopt green practices, their profits increase.
Many green companies fail to acknowledge the holistic view of sustainability when calculating the size of their carbon footprint. In the U.S., the majority of workers commute to their workplace by car. The emissions produced by these employees contribute to the environmental impact of their workplace.
Fortunately, companies can design their buildings to promote environmentally friendly transportation methods, lessening their contribution to ecological destruction.
Commute Times Impact Green Building Principles
Companies design green buildings to reduce or eliminate environmental harm while protecting natural resources. These structures are energy- and water-efficient, use renewable energy sources, reduce pollution, increase air quality, and protect the global ecosystem.
To maintain this level of sustainability, green buildings must limit the environmental degradation associated with commuting. The more time you spend commuting, the larger your carbon footprint. Research shows that commuting to work by car accounts for more energy emissions than the operation of the building itself.
In the U.S., transportation accounts for 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, making it the most significant contributing factor to emissions in the nation. Many vehicles on the road burn fossil fuels for power, which contribute harmful emissions to the environment. These air pollutants create the enhanced greenhouse effect that accelerates the risk of climate change.
Environmental and Health Challenges with Transportation
Building designers in many regions of the U.S., particularly where suburban sprawl is the lay of the land, won’t be able to structurally change the way Americans live and work with a single project. Commercial buildings surrounded by traditional parking lots and roadways may be a necessity in many areas, so why attempt change at this level?
The truth is, there are many community-scale concerns that construction teams, design firms and government officials can address with better design. The problems associated with heavy vehicle traffic can impact health, climate and community safety all at once.
First, there’s environmental concerns. The emissions produced by vehicles contribute to ground-level smog production. Smog can lead to pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. Individuals who work close to a major roadway with heavy traffic have a greater susceptibility to these health effects.
Businesses in the vicinity of high-traffic streets also have a higher risk for storefront crashes. These accidents occur 60 times a day and injure over 4,000 civilians each year. There are various ways companies can change the design of their buildings to limit nearby traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
Design That Accommodates Alternate Transportation
To limit the environmental harm associated with a development, it helps to adopt sustainable designs. Companies can increase their bike storage to promote cycling as a form of transportation. Covered areas near the entrance can keep bikes pristine throughout the day and offer perks for those who choose alternate transportation.
They can also offer rental bicycles for their workers to get home from the office or a public transit stop. Rental bikes reduce environmental degradation by eliminating vehicle emissions and the pollutants produced when creating new bikes for a single user.
A business may install walking paths around their building to promote workers commuting by foot. This is the most sustainable form of transportation and improves the health of workers. Companies can also install public showers and lockers for employees who walk or bike to work.
Making these simple building design alterations can significantly reduce the size of a business’s carbon footprint.
Inviting Electric Vehicles to Park
The use of electric vehicles drastically reduces the amount of greenhouse gases associated with a business. These cars produce no direct emissions and improve the air quality in high-traffic regions. If companies install electric vehicle charging stations at their offices, they could decrease the size of their carbon footprints and promote eco-friendly car use.
Many homeowners charge their electric vehicles overnight at home, but renters may not have access to this resource. The lack of accessible charging stations keeps individuals from purchasing eco-friendly cars. A company can provide a reliable space for these employees to charge their vehicles.
Electric cars will soon be the way of the world. California is heavily investing in statewide charging stations to bring 250,000 more ports to the region by 2050. When companies install electric car charging ports by their offices, they also increase the value of their businesses.
Making Parking Structures Greener
A business may also revolutionize its parking lot or garage to increase the sustainability of its office building. Some companies place solar panels on the top floors of their parking garages to fuel lighting and charging stations. They also contain internal light wells, which reduce the energy used to illuminate the structure at night.
Making these alterations to a parking lot or garage can shrink a company’s carbon footprint and reduce its utility bills. When your business can cut its energy costs, it may put excess resources back into expanding green practices.
Linking Green Transportation and Green Building
These building design changes can increase the sustainability of commercial spaces and the health of employees. Facilities that promote green transportation can have far-reaching impacts beyond climate, too—workers who bike to work have healthier hearts, lungs, and circulation. Walking to work also improves your health by reducing your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Consumers value sustainable businesses and are more likely to purchase eco-conscious goods over their cheaper counterparts. Building design that supports alternate forms of transportation can increase a business’s overall sales, and green companies improve their employees’ health and safety, shrink their carbon footprint, and enjoy higher profits.