What’s on everybody’s mind these days? Sustainability—a term that has finally surpassed vogue and has become an essential necessity

Concerns of a rapidly growing carbon footprint and the work environment changes brought on by COVID-19 are inspiring innovation in many industries, and real estate is no exception.

With the current global pandemic, COVID-19 has undeniably changed the importance of sustainability within business. It is now no longer an option for businesses to ignore the changes in both climate and society.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings consume 40% of all energy consumed in the United States. Globally, buildings comprise 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

To mark the start of ‘World Green Building Week’ (21 – 25 September 2020) we have collected examples of architects in the past that are leading the charge of reimagining sustainable building designs to meet these evolving demands. By implementing new ways of thinking and technologies, these sustainable offices consume less energy, perform better over time, and provide healthier working environments.

Without any further ado, let’s take a look at our top 10 most sustainable building designs:

1. The Edge – Amsterdam

Designed by PLP Architecture in London, the Edge is a leap for sustainable architecture. Boasting 28,000 sensor “smart” ceilings that measure motion, light, temperature, and humidity, workers are able to use smartphone applications to control blinds, lighting, and temperature. The lighting consists of ultra-efficient LED panels that only need a small amount of electricity, and 4,100 square meters of The Edge’s roof is covered with solar panels.

The Edge

But that’s not all—toilet flushing and plant watering is supported by water from the building’s rainwater harvesting system.

The Edge has proven itself to the critics, earning the highest BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) score in history. The BREEAM test is the standard tool to measure a building’s sustainability.

2. Bullitt Centre – Seattle

Commissioned as the Bullitt Foundation’s headquarters, the 50,000 square foot Bullitt Center has passed the sustainability and performance standard set by the Living Building Challenge. The 6-story building features five aerobic composters, allowing for efficient treatment of human waste and eliminating odors.

Bullitt Centre - Seattle

Just like The Edge, Bullitt Center has composting toilets and a rainwater harvesting system that can filter and collect 56,000 gallons. On the building’s rooftop, there are photovoltaic panels installed that are able to produce 230,000 kilowatt hours a year—enough to cover the building’s annual energy consumption.

3. Shanghai Tower – Shanghai

This stunning skyscraper is the second tallest building in the world, right behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The building’s unique curved shape helps its wind resistance, while a double skin façade provides robust and durable insulation.

Shanghai Tower

Among the 43 sustainable technologies incorporated in this office design are landscaping techniques that help cool the tower and renewable energy sources.

4. BMW – Munich

BMW Welt is an aesthetically pleasing and energy-efficient building that applies sustainability to the production of cars. The building was designed with five thematic blocks: Double Cone, Tower, Hall, Premiere, and Forum to create a versatile space that suits a variety of business needs. 

BMW Welt

With the design of the BMW Welt, Architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au accomplished a monumental feat: the combination of complexity and sustainability. With solar-heating, natural ventilation generated by wind pressure and thermal currents, BMW Welt has set a new sustainable standard that the auto industry increasingly embraces.

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5. Etsy – New York

Etsy embraced The Living Building Challenge, designing their headquarters with 60% locally-sourced materials, and exclusively using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. Further, construction efforts included sustainable waste removal by donating excess to other building projects in the area.

Etsy New York

The e-commerce company opted to place workspaces near windows, leveraging natural light to save energy that is provided from the 12-kW solar power system on Etsy’s roof.

6. Upcycle

UpCycle reimagined a former vacant and graffiti-covered recycling center in Austin, Texas with the environment in mind. New installations include skylights and a ventilation system that lessens the need for air conditioning. 


The rest of the renovation was completed using materials found on-site, supplemented by excess materials used in other projects. The process saved an estimated 1824 metric tons of CO2.

7. Bahrain World Trade Center

Bahrain’s World Trade Center has three sky bridges that each hold 225kW wind turbines. This design element takes care of 15% of the building’s energy needs. 

Bahrain Trade

The turbines echo traditional Arabian wind towers, which is a subtle blend of sustainability and cultural preservation. The building further uses energy-efficient lighting, reflective pools, glass as shading, and concrete flooring to enhance sustainability.

8. The Crystal, UK

This chart topper has earned great scores after BREEAM and LEEDs Platinum building assessments.

The Crystal

The Crystal is 90% water self-sufficient, features ‘insulation glazing,’ and has both solar and thermal roof panels supplementing its energy needs.

9. Vancouver Convention Center West, Canada

With a fish habitat, green roofing, and a heating/cooling system powered by sea water, the Vancouver Convention Center West is a remarkable structure when it comes to sustainability.

Vancouver Trade

With an on-site water treatment facility and a heavy emphasis on recycling, this building uses the ecosystem of its surroundings to sustain itself, while staying out of its way.

10. Siemens Headquarters – Munich

Siemens completed the construction of their new headquarters in 2016. They ushered in a new era for the company, with a narrowed focus on sustainability. The building was designed with sustainable construction materials and inclined facades, which deflect light far into the building.


The roof features photovoltaic panels, and the building’s gardens and toilets are supplied by water from their rainwater harvesting facility.


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ManhattanONE’s Sustainability module has been designed to help organizations make informed, data-driven decisions to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions.

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