Eco-friendly retail development offers ROI

The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre_solar_panelsRetail centres that are more environmentally friendly not only attract more shoppers, they can also help retailers and centre managers save energy and water usage, a study conducted by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) revealed.

“Designed smartly and built sensitively, better buildings can and do pay for themselves across all sectors. The role of the retail precinct within a community is becoming more and more important so this is a crucial sector to rigorously examine from a number of perspectives,” said Living Future Institute of Australia vice chair, Stephen Choi.

Choi said as major cities become increasingly urbanised and population density occurs along with it, the role of the shopping centre will inevitably evolve well beyond the parameters that people may have currently set for them.

“Instead of a ‘fast-as-possible’, or ‘tolerated’ experience, more will become genuine destinations that offer an increasing array of services for the local community and its visitors,” Choi said.

“By creating better retail environments, the property industry has an opportunity to position itself into what we call a living future, which we define as socially just, ecologically restorative, and culturally rich.”

The WorldGBC study shows that greener retail precincts attract more shoppers, provide a better and healthier customer experience, and deliver long term operational savings to shopping centres.

The study was released together with the launch of the Brickworks Living Building Challenge design competition for international designers, which for the first time, is focused on a retail centre, the Frasers Property Australia’s Brickworks site in Melbourne.

Choi, an architect by trade with a Masters in sustainability, said the Brickworks Living Building Challenge design competition seeks to raise the bar for a sector which to date has been limited in its adoption of best practice.

“Because of the operational requirements in retail centres, it is considered one of the most difficult sectors to progress. However, this new research highlights the financial incentives involved and this is a major step in convincing owners and operators to push through several previous boundaries,” he said.

According to Choi, the traditional retail sector model is, “regrettably grounded in excess and waste”.

“Shopping centre signs buzz at night, instore mannequins can be individually lit long after the customers have gone home, and we have somehow got to a point where we call natural daylight and fresh air ‘best practice’.”

“The shopping centre of the future is one that attracts even more foot traffic, is a place to be enjoyed, is aesthetically pleasing, functions beautifully, promotes positive health and wellbeing for visitors and employees, and has a net positive impact on its environment,” he said.

The Brickworks Living Building Challenge design competition is inviting international designers, architects and students to provide their vision of what the world’s most sustainable retail centre looks like.

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