February 9, 2023

Renovating Existing Commercial Real Estate Building to Become Green

Holland & Knight Retail and Commercial Development and Leasing Blog
Marcy Hart | Holly R. Camisa | Maria Z. Cortes | Olufunke Leroy
Retail and Commercial Development and Leasing Blog

While green lending is a relatively new and developing form of real estate financing, green loans are available to the owners of new and existing structures alike. In fact, according to Carl Elefante, the former director of sustainable design at Quinn Evans Architects, "the greenest building is one that is already built…Occupying, maintaining, renewing, and adapting existing buildings is the greenest approach." Elefante explained that retrofitting existing buildings not only reduces their energy consumption but prevents the significant emissions produced by construction of a new building. Restoration can consume less than half the energy used on new construction, along with producing significantly less construction waste.

Green loans are accompanied by a number of other benefits to both individual property owners and communities.

In addition to protecting the environment, renovating existing buildings preserves historic architecture, which serves as a cultural, aesthetic and educational legacy for current and future generations.

Green renovation also comes with public health benefits such as improved indoor air quality and reduced exposure to carcinogens and other harmful substances, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and plastic by-products, that cause respiratory diseases, allergies and even cancer.

Furthermore, green renovation is a wise economic investment. While initial renovation costs are typically higher than non-sustainable renovations, over time a green property saves more on energy costs, and the value of a green property is considerably higher. Heritage preservation and a historic ambience serve as a popular source of tourism, helping local businesses to attract customers.

How Can Existing Buildings Be Made Green?

In seeking to obtain a green loan, existing buildings may be renovated to employ the use of alternative energy sources that minimize carbon emissions, as described in greater detail in Holland & Knight's previous blog, "Going Green in Commercial Real Estate: Aim for a Zero-Emissions Building Standard" (Feb. 2, 2023).

Historic buildings can also be renovated in other ways to reduce their impact on the environment. These green improvements range from minimal interior updates to major structural renovations. Building owners may install, among plenty of other options:

  • a metal roof made of recycled materials with a reflective surface, which reflects the sun's light and prevents heat from entering the home, resulting in a significant reduction in energy costs
  • LED lighting, rather than traditional incandescent lighting
  • "smart" high-efficiency lighting such as automatic light dimmers and sensor-activated lights that turn on and shut off automatically
  • low-flow plumbing fixtures such as low-flow, dual-flush toilets and motion-activated, touch-free faucets
  • "smart" automatic shutdown electrical sockets that use sensors or timers to turn off the power in a vacant room or sockets connected to unused devices
  • natural, heat-retaining flooring such as concrete and brick that absorbs heat, in turn cooling rooms and reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer
  • sustainable flooring such as bamboo that is made from materials that regenerate rapidly or flooring made of reclaimed wood
  • insulation in the walls and roof to prevent air leaks and heat loss
  • energy-efficient windows designed to prevent the escape of heated and cooled air
  • well-planned landscaping to shade, cool (by reducing the amount of heat absorbed by a building) and act as a windbreak, thereby reducing energy bills
  • no-VOC paint

More Blogs in This Series

Part 1 - Green Lending in Commercial Real Estate: Four Core Components of Green Loan Principles

Part 2 - Going Green in Commercial Real Estate: Aim for a Zero-Emissions Building Standard

Part 3 - Renovating Existing Commercial Real Estate Building to Become Green (You are currently reading Part 3)

Part 4 - Cities Are Going Green Through Sustainable Real Estate

Part 5 - An Introduction to Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing

Part 6 - Inflation Reduction Act Offers a Variety of Green Building Tax Incentives

Part 7 - Inflation Reduction Act of 2022: Business Energy Investment Tax Credit

Part 8 - Inflation Reduction Act of 2022: The Newly Added Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit

Part 9 - Inflation Reduction Act of 2022: Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship Provisions

Part 10 - Energy Star and LEED Certifications - What's the Difference?

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