With the advent of technologies such as automated meter reading and LED lighting, malls are at last becoming places where you can shop without sullying your conscience
By Alex Hayes
To many the very concept of “green shopping” may seem to be no more than a joke. And yet, the ideas of sustainability have already conquered the office market, so developers are beginning to look ever more irresponsible when they fail to apply these concepts to other asset classes. At last, the green movement is staging its attack on that great bastion of profligate consumerism – the shopping center.
Nevertheless, at present there are only around 30 shopping centers in Poland with BREEAM in-Use ecological certification. When asked why there are so few, Jerzy Wójcik, a senior associate in the Green Building Advisory of Colliers International stated that, “A rather simple answer is that so far there is very little tenant demand.” Ecological building practices are still seen more as something more applicable to office buildings than to retail, so any development of ecological-friendly retail centers is being pushed more by the developers than by market demand.
Apsys is one such developer that is leading the trend for BREEAM certification with the certification of malls such as the Platan center in Zabrze and Manufaktura in Łódź, before its sale to Union Investment Real Estate at the end of 2012. So far, only the Factory Warsaw Annopol outlet center, which was developed by Neinver Polska, has been awarded BREEAM certification at the design stage. According to Cezary Kopij, a project manager at Neinver, the decision to apply for ecological certification for the building was made by the head office.
Monitoring and control
One reason for the relative popularity among shopping center developers of the UK-based BREEAM in-Use certification over its American rival LEED for existing buildings, is that BREEAM certification is only applicable to the common areas of a shopping center whereas LEED is applicable to the entire building and as a result requires a certain level of tenant buy-in. The certification process for an existing building will usually begin with an energy audit for a benchmark by which all further energy savings can be measured.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, so-called building management systems (BMS) have become standard in all modern buildings. Such systems will monitor the behavior of a building including electricity and water usage and they will also monitor and control the air conditioning and heating systems.
A modern system can inform the operator about dripping taps or windows left ajar. As the technology improves, more features are continually added and the systems collect ever more data about the functioning of the building. This monitoring now also includes so-called automated metering, whereby each individual tenant’s electricity and water usage can be precisely measured in real time. When asked if the latest BMS system could be fully integrated with an older building, Artur Motyliński the director of the building technologies department at Siemens answered emphatically, “Yes, of course. Moreover – it is highly recommended. In such a case, deep analyses are required to renovate all systems and to invest in the most efficient solutions. Siemens is doing such an analysis using its own solutions.”
“What is very effective – also from a customer’s point of view – is the model of Performance Contracting, in which the investment is returned from savings achieved after modernization,” Motyliński added. However, according to Wójcik, you do not need the latest, most sophisticated systems in order to reap significant benefits. By comparing energy use patterns in a building operating schedule and of energy intensive services such as heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting to actual demand, major savings can often be made.
Turning off the taps
The same is true for water. Simple water savings can be made by matching supply to demand. Greenery need not be watered in strict accordance with a regular daily schedule if humidity monitors are installed in the soil. Instead, the supply of water can be limited only to what is needed. So-called gray water or water reclaimed from drainage as well as rainwater can often be employed for non-potable usage, such as flushing toilets and watering plants. However, there are a couple of drawbacks, one of which according to Rafał Schurma, the president of the Polish Green Building Council, is the perceived stigma of it being dirty water which will leave a mark at the water closet bowl or urinal.
Moreover, it is often not feasible to simply collect rainwater from the roof of an existing building, because such a solution would require the building to be completely re-plumbed with additional storage tanks to be installed and such work is often considered to be prohibitively expensive. However, when asked to name the single most effective solution with the largest environmental impact employed at the Factory Warsaw Annopol retail outlet center, Cezary Kopij mentioned a watersaving installation, namely fitted modern valves in the public toilets.
Keeping the lights on
As for lighting, LED lamps have now completely supplanted Edison’s traditional bulb. Now the choice of lighting is between halogens, LEDs and incandescent bulbs. Not only does such lighting produce light far more efficiently, but each lamp has a significantly prolonged lifespan. People used to complain about the lighting quality of LED lamps, but the technology has improved so much so that the light spectrum produced is now far closer to natural lighting. Additionally, the production of LEDs does not require the use of heavy metals such as mercury. Schurma believes that natural lighting is the best way to illuminate the building, but this is a solution that is rarely applied in shopping centers (although it could play a significant role, at least on pedestrian walkways and patios), and according to Cezary Kopij of Neinver, is very difficult to apply in a retail context.
There are many weird and wonderful solutions on the market to improve the energy and water efficiency of a building such as waterless urinals and geothermal energy, but it appears that the biggest gains are to be had with the simplest of installations and vigilant monitoring. However, although no “A” grade office building would come on the market without some form of ecological certification, it appears that without a change in attitude from retail tenants we will have to wait a long time for such technologies to become equally ubiquitous in malls.