LED Light Fixure In Commercial Warehouse Hanging From Ceiling

Top Commercial Sustainability Projects For 2022

For all types of commercial properties, sustainability is an important issue. This is because the commercial real estate industry, as a whole, is among the largest consumers of energy in the United States. A recent article by Constellation Energy reports that commercial real estate is responsible for 71% of U.S. electrical consumption, 39% of carbon emissions, 14% of potable water use, and 40% of raw material use. As a result, every commercial property is a key player when it comes to sustainability efforts.

Investments that reduce energy consumption, water use, and promote environmentally sound practices also demonstrate corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business School reports that 70% of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place. A commercial property “going green” is an excellent way to highlight corporate social responsibility. Beyond the environmental and corporate impacts, investing in sustainability is a sound financial decision. Most commercial sustainability projects end up paying for themselves and eventually increase net operating income.

In the long term, commercial properties always gain from investing in sustainability. This is why Property Manager Insider compiled its list of the top commercial sustainability projects for property managers to consider in 2022.

Defining Sustainability For Commercial Properties

Sustainability is broadly defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” This commonly refers to social, economic, and environmental pillars. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 committed the United States to sustainability.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations” is the official U.S. policy on sustainability.


“to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations”


For commercial properties, “sustainability” traditionally refers to the environmental pillar. This is because commercial properties can have the biggest impact, in terms of sustainability, by focusing on environmental impacts. It is also easier for a 20 year old commercial property to significantly reduce their impact on the environment than to launch a major social or economic sustainability project.

CapEx Commercial Sustainability Projects

Certain commercial sustainability projects require major capital investments. These projects involve significant upgrades to a property’s physical plant and generate substantial energy cost savings. This is why they are considered capital expenditure or CapEx projects. In most instances, these projects involve projected payback periods, internal rates of return, and state and federal tax rebates. Here are Property Manager Insider’s top commercial sustainability CapEx projects for 2022.
Bright LED Lamps Hanging From Industrial Warehouse Ceiling - Commercial Sustainability Projects

LED Lighting Retrofits

Since LED lighting retrofits boomed in popularity in the late 2000’s, they’ve been one of the best commercial sustainability projects. This remains true in 2022. According to ENERGY STAR, LED lights use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. This is why they are excellent at reducing energy costs. While LED lighting retrofits remain expensive, advances in LED technology have greatly reduced costs. The average LED Lighting payback period, based solely on energy savings, is around 5.6 years.

The sustainability impact of LED lighting retrofits go well beyond energy savings. Since LED’s emit 90% less heat than traditional bulbs, they reduce cooling costs. The average lifespan of an LED lamp is about 25,000 hours, depending on use. By comparison, fluorescent bulbs last around 8,000 hours. A commercial property will use 3 fluorescent bulbs for every 1 LED lamp. This means less landfill waste. Click here to get a free energy analysis and LED lighting retrofit quote for any commercial property.

EV Charging Stations

While installing EV charging stations will not lower a property’s energy use, it does demonstrate a property’s commitment to green energy. This can attract office building tenants with corporate sustainability goals or multifamily renters that own electric vehicles. Retail centers can attract shoppers to stores by offering on-site EV charging stations. Investing in commercial EV charging stations is another way property’s can achieve LEED AP status.

Commercial EV charging station costs depend on the number of stations a property installs. On average, property managers can expect to invest $6,000 to $10,000 per level-2 EV charging station. Installing level-3 DC Fast Charging Stations, which can recharge electric vehicles to 80% in less than an hour, can range from $30,000 to over $100,000 per station. Like many other commercial sustainability projects, property managers can seek out federal and state rebates and tax credits to offset the costs of installing EV charging stations.


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Install Commercial Window Film

Older commercial properties can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs by installing commercial window film. According to 3M, 33% of cooling expenses are due to solar heat gain from windows. Commercial window films also trap heat inside the building during winter months. As a result, property managers can reduce heating and cooling costs anywhere from $1 to $2 per square foot of film installed.

Like other impactful commercial sustainability projects, installing window film can help a property earn or maintain LEED AP status. It also has a short payback period. Most commercial window film projects generate enough savings to cover installation costs in just 3 years.
Commercial Sustainability Project - Solar Panels On Industrial Warehouse Roof Producing Green Energy

Commercial Solar Energy

Going solar at a commercial property is a major financial investment. According to EnergySage, The average commercial solar project in the United States costs approximately $251,000 in 2021. This includes the maximum federal tax credit of 30%. While solar is a great way to go green, it only makes sense for certain properties. The best candidates for commercial solar are properties with very large flat roofs that receive significant sun exposure.

While solar is a major investment, it is also one of the best ways to go green in 2022. This is because the average commercial solar energy system reduces utility costs by 75%. Another reason to consider solar is longevity. The standard lifespan of commercial solar panels is 25 to 30 years. As a result property’s can count years of reduced energy use and lower utility costs.

Heat Island Reductions

A heat island is any area of a property with prolonged sunlight exposure. These areas develop much higher temperatures which can impact people and wildlife. As a result, reducing heat islands is a great commercial sustainability project. There are two main ways property managers can reduce heat islands at their property.

First, property managers can install trees in and around their parking lots. This generates shade, which reduces heat island effects. The second way to reduce heat islands at commercial properties is all about the roof. Property managers can install a green roof which creates rooftop shade. Reflective roof coatings also reduce heat rooftop heat islands. Both of these projects count toward LEED AP status for commercial properties.


Affordable Commercial Sustainability Projects

While installing EV charging stations, commercial solar panels, and LED lighting systems are great ways to go green, they are also expensive. Even with state and federal rebates, these projects can still be out of reach for many properties. It is still important, however, for all commercial properties to explore ways to reduce energy use. For property’s with limited budgets, here are more affordable commercial sustainability projects to consider in 2022.
Cuvry Bike Rack In Front Of Commercial Office Building

Promote Bicycle Use

Commercial sustainability projects do not have to be major financial investments. One affordable way to go green in 2022 is promoting bicycle use. This can be as easy installing high quality commercial bike racks at a property or facility. This can lower commuter vehicle traffic, which has an environmental impact by cutting pollution and reducing wear and tear on commercial parking lots and garages.

Another way to promote bicycle use is allowing them in buildings and facilities. While outdoor bike racks are great, indoor racks are even better. In addition to making bike commuters feel welcome, they are also efficient. This is because indoor racks are often vertically mounted. As a result, they allow for significant bike storage, protect bikes from the weather, and reduce the chances of theft. Not sure which type of bike racks to install? This free buyers guide from The Park Catalog is a great resource for property managers looking to install bike racks.

Emphasize Recycling

Recycling programs have a major impact on landfill waste. This is why developing a robust recycling program is a great commercial sustainability project in 2022. Just because a property has recycling bins, it is not safe to assume it also has a great recycling program. Property managers looking to improve their recycling efforts can start with a waste stream audit. These audits identify additional recycling opportunities. Increasing recycling efforts not only reduces landfill waste, it also reduces waste management costs.

Other ways to capitalize on recycling include material use. Property managers can support recycling by using building products made from recycled materials. This can range from paper towels in the bathrooms to commercial flooring made from recycled materials such as reclaimed wood, carpet tiles, and antique bricks and stone.

Find Rebate Programs

Rebate programs are another great way to “go green” on a budget. Unlike other projects on this list, rebate programs vary by property type and location. This is because they are normally backed by state, county, or city funding. Even though rebate programs vary by location, they are all designed to reduce energy use and make commercial sustainability projects more affordable.

Property managers in the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are eligible for cash rebates when they upgrade plumbing fixtures. Any commercial property can receive a $200 cash rebate for every zero water urinal they install. While many rebates apply universally, property specific programs also exist. For example, multifamily properties built before 1994 are eligible for a $250 cash rebate for every toilet they replace that uses more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. There are thousands of similar programs around the country.

While these programs exist all over the country, they are often poorly marketed. This is why property managers working with a limited budget must be proactive and seek out programs. Thankfully, many tools exist to find rebate programs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Rebate Finder is a particularly great example of search engine for water saving rebates and incentives.

Find Contractors Using BidSource

Property managers can use BidSource to have the Property Manager Insider team locate a qualified contractor or vendor to bid commercial sustainability projects. Just fill out the form with your project details, and a member of our team will be in touch.

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