10 Green Commercial Building Design Ideas


Green commercial building design aims during and after construction, to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the environment and create excellent environmental indoor quality (EIQ). The green building market represents one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. In the United States, LEED-certified projects rose from 296 certifications in 2006 to over 67,200 in 2018. The rising demand for more green and sustainable building options has made green construction increasingly profitable for architects, contractors, and building owners.

The Benefits of Green Commercial Building Design

The environment, the occupants of your building, and your net profits will all benefit from green commercial building design.

Green commercial building design offers many benefits to the environment and the occupant's health. Green building design reduces energy use by 25 percent, water use by 11 percent, carbon-dioxide emissions by 34 percent, and it diverts millions of tons of waste from landfills. It also improves the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of your building by ensuring clean water and air, and less exposure to toxins.

The financial advantages of green-sustainable design make it increasingly desirable to commercial building owners. Green design can lower your operating costs by 20 percent less per square foot, compared to non-green design. It also lessens employee sick days and improves their productivity. Furthermore, green-sustainable commercial building design decreases maintenance costs, and increases asset value and rental rates and can raise the investment value of your property by more than 10 percent.

10 Vital Green Commercial Building Ideas

Many features contribute towards making a green commercial building. The Fox Blocks professionals have compiled these ten design ideas that are crucial to green-sustainable commercial building design.

1. Build a Passive Solar Structure

A passive solar structure takes advantage of the climate, site, and materials to reduce energy use. It minimizes cooling and heating loads through energy-efficient and solar energy features and does not use mechanical and electrical devices.

For passive solar design, a green commercial building should face south, directly towards the sun, and utilize high-thermal mass products. During cold weather, the sun shining through the south-facing windows allows the building to collect the heat, storing it in the mass materials. The stored heat then moves to different building areas through conduction, convection, radiation, and ventilation systems. During warmer weather, the south-facing windows require overhang awnings, shutters, and trellises to block summer solar heat gains.

Solar structure

2. Create a Green Roof

Energy-efficient green roofs (vegetative or eco-roofs) include a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing system installed on a flat or slightly–sloped rooftop. They act as an insulator for the building, reducing energy needs for cooling and heating. Green roofs can limit heat transfer from a building exterior to its interior by up to 72 percent. In the summer, a 2-3 story building with a green roof can reduce energy costs by 15-25 percent. Durable green roofs also last longer (40 years-avg) than conventional roofs (17 years-avg) and improve overall air quality.

Fox Blocks provides the structural capabilities to support the additional load considerations for green roof designs.

Green roof

3. Use ICF Blocks for a Green Foundation

A green foundation, built with Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs), for a commercial building, creates a more robust, durable, healthy, and energy-efficient foundation over either traditional poured concrete wall or cinder block foundations.


With an R-value of greater than 20, an airtight Fox Blocks foundation proves itself as a green and energy-efficient system. The Fox Blocks system includes a vapor retarder that more effectively resists moisture infiltration than other foundations systems, contributing towards a healthy, durable, and low-maintenance structure. Fox Blocks ICF green foundations build a superior foundation that can stand up against the forces of nature and support and anchor the commercial building to the ground for many years.

How to Construct an ICF Green Foundation

The quick and easy installation of Fox Blocks ICFs minimizes labor costs and construction risks over traditional concrete foundation types. The Fox Blocks all-in-one wall assembly combines five construction steps into one — insulation, structure, air barrier, vapor retarder, and attachment. Combining the five steps accelerates project completion by significantly eliminating the need to coordinate multiple trades.

Icf green foundation

Constructing Fox Blocks ICF foundations involves dry-stacking expanded polystyrene foam blocks, specifically designed as a concrete forming system, for length and height of the foundation. The steel reinforced walls are supported with temporary ICF bracing and concrete is placed into the wall cavity resulting in a reinforced concrete wall with continuous insulation.

Icf foundation

4. Energy-Efficient Siding

Energy-efficient siding is a commercial building's first defense against severe winds, heat, and other outside conditions that will affect a building's overall energy performance. Unfortunately, most sidings on the market today contribute little to nothing towards energy-efficiency. Brick and stone achieve an R-value of 0.44, expensive wood shingle siding has an R-value of 0.87, and non-insulated vinyl provides an R-value of 0.61. All of these types of siding require installing flat, rigid insulation or a quality house wrap to the wall before the siding installation in order to achieve an R-value of 13, which is the building envelope requirement for steel- and wood-framed commercial building wall systems

Fox Blocks ICF wall assembly is a superior choice for achieving an energy-efficient building envelope for a commercial building. With an R-value of 23, the Fox Blocks wall assembly creates an airtight building envelope without the addition of insulation or wrap, regardless of the cladding. Fox Blocks has fastening strips at 8" on center, that have been third party tested, to accept the attachment of exterior siding and other direct applied finishes.

5. Install Green Insulation

Green insulation provides a safer and more sustainable and energy-efficient product over fiberglass insulation.

Natural, formaldehyde-free products make green insulation the best choice for eco-friendly and healthy commercial buildings. Unlike fiberglass, workers can safely handle it without the risk of skin irritations or respiratory tract problems. In addition, choosing insulation with recycled materials lessens the carbon footprint of the building. Green insulation also lowers manufacturing costs — it takes ten times more energy to produce fiberglass insulation than cellulose insulation.

lcynene spray foam green insulation can lessen energy bills by 30 to 50 percent over fiberglass insulation.

Green insulation

6. Add Smart Glass Windows

Commercial building windows account for about one-third of heat loss or gain, significantly impacting overall operating costs. The addition of smart glass windows will save energy and money. Smart (switchable) glass uses advanced technologies to insulate and block light. They serve as an alternative to blinds, curtains, and shades.

Light, heat, and electricity will all affect the light transmission, meaning the glass changes from translucent to transparent, blocking all, some, or specific wavelengths of light. Smart glass windows will easily control heat, light, and privacy in a commercial building.

7. Use Louvers and Sunshades

Passive louvers and sunshades can control the amount of direct sunlight through your building's windows, saving energy and improving worker comfort. Moreover, they lessen capital investment in air-conditioning and electrical equipment and improve your building's appearance. By strategically installing strong-durable screens on your building's exterior, you can save 15 to 50 percent on cooling costs.

Typically, an exterior sunshade extends three to four feet from the head of a window, allowing harvesting of the light in the upper third of the window. The harvested light reflects off a light shelf on the interior, pushing deep into the building's interior spaces. Utilizing daylight can reduce energy use for artificial lighting by as much as 80 percent during daylight hours. Further studies have shown that increasing daylight lowers stress, helps patients recover faster, and improves workers' performance and productivity.

Louvers and sunshades

8. Integrate DC Power

Alternating current (AC) represents most of the power generated in the United States. However, an increasing number of devices in buildings, like LED lighting, computers, and mobile electronics use direct current (DC) power, requiring the inefficient process of converting the AC power to DC power which results in a 5-20 percent energy waste. Integrating DC Power into green commercial building design will save energy on motors, appliances, LED lighting, electronic equipment, and more. Furthermore, DC power is compatible with renewable sources of energy, such as solar and water.

9. Reclaim Water with a Dual Plumbing System

Green commercial buildings should include features that conserve water, like a dual plumbing system. A dual plumbing system separates water into two pipes: potable water and recycled (reclaimed) water. You can drink, cook, and wash with the potable water. You can flush and irrigate with recycled water from waste and sewage, with solids and bacteria filtered out.

10. Project Waste, Safety and Speed

Green construction and project management is very focused on the environment in reducing construction waste and improving the speed of construction.

Fox Blocks, as a modular building product, reduces material requirements for the building envelope which reduces on-site waste, improving safety with a cleaner site and speeds up the installation timeline to a faster occupancy.

The Growing Demand for Green Commercial Buildings

The demand for green commercial buildings, along with an ongoing boom in the commercial building market, provides a unique opportunity for builders to grow their businesses and prosper. Through various methods and materials, green commercial building design aims to minimize or banish negative impacts on the ecosystem, during and after construction. Fast and simple to install, Fox Blocks ICF contributes towards green-sustainable design by producing airtight, energy-efficient, non-toxic, and durable foundations and above grade walls.

Green building design helps commercial building owners increase their net profits through reduced operating costs and improved profits. It also creates a healthy, safe, and comfortable indoor environment for the building occupants, improving their performance.

For help designing your next green commercial building, please contact the professionals at Fox Blocks.