Design and Construction, Energy Management and Lighting, Green Building, Grounds Management, Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Roofing, Safety, Sustainability/Business Continuity

Green from Above: Harnessing Drone Inspections to Boost Building ESG Performance

In the realm of sustainable development, the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria has gained significant traction. Major property owners, in particular, have come under increasing scrutiny on their environmental impact, social responsibility, and governance practices. Fortunately, drone inspections present a promising avenue for enhancing building ESG performance. This article explores how drone technology can revolutionize building inspections, leading to improved ESG outcomes.

Enhancing Environmental Performance

Drone inspections directly bolster a building’s environmental performance in a number of ways. Most directly, drones equipped with advanced sensors directly facilitate the detection of energy inefficiencies and environmental hazards in buildings. They can identify issues such as heat loss, air leakage, and structural defects with unparalleled precision. They can also detect water ingress, which over time can destroy an entire structure, requiring environmentally and financially costly repair work.

Traditional inspection methods often entail manual labor and the use of heavy machinery, resulting in carbon emissions and environmental degradation. Drones generally operate on batteries, significantly reducing carbon footprint. Additionally, drones can access hard-to-reach areas without disturbing surrounding ecosystems, minimizing ecological disruption during inspections.

A newer use of drones in property management is for appropriately siting electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. For example, aerial drone data can help engineers see which areas of the parking lot are least likely to be flooded during a rainstorm.

By promptly identifying and rectifying energy inefficiencies and other issues, building owners and maintainers can enhance energy efficiency, reduce resource consumption, and mitigate environmental risks, aligning with ESG objectives aimed at minimizing environmental impact.

Fostering Social Responsibility

The adoption of drone inspections also contributes to fulfilling social responsibility commitments. Traditional inspection methods often pose safety risks to workers, particularly in hazardous or hard-to-access areas. Falling is one of the main causes of on-the-job fatalities in the United States, and drones can significantly reduce the time workers have to spend on roofs and scaffolding. This not only safeguards the well-being of inspection personnel, but also upholds the broader principle of prioritizing human health and safety.

Earlier, I wrote about EV charging stations in parking lots. Along those lines, drones are also great for siting accessible parking spots in areas less prone to ice and flooding.

Furthermore, drone inspections can promote inclusivity and accessibility by facilitating remote monitoring and participation. Stakeholders, including community members and regulatory authorities, can remotely observe inspections in real-time, enhancing transparency and engagement in building operations. By fostering open communication and collaboration, drone technology fosters a culture of accountability and social inclusiveness, essential components of robust ESG frameworks.

Improving Governance Practices

Effective governance is fundamental to ensuring the ethical and transparent management of real estate assets. Drone inspections offer valuable tools for enhancing governance practices and regulatory compliance within the industry.

By capturing comprehensive data and imagery, drones provide an objective basis for assessing building conditions and compliance with regulatory standards. This transparency reduces the likelihood of regulatory violations and strengthens trust between stakeholders, including investors, tenants, and regulatory bodies.

The digitization of inspection data through drone technology facilitates efficient record-keeping and documentation, streamlining audit processes and enhancing accountability. Accessible, up-to-date inspection data enables stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding building maintenance, renovations, and sustainability initiatives. By promoting data-driven decision-making and accountability, drone inspections contribute to robust governance practices that align with ESG principles.

Incorporating drone inspections into building management practices represents a significant step toward enhancing ESG performance in the real estate sector. By leveraging drone technology, stakeholders can improve environmental sustainability, uphold social responsibility, and enhance governance practices within their properties. As the demand for sustainable and socially responsible investments continues to grow, embracing innovative solutions like drone inspections will become increasingly essential for achieving ESG objectives and fostering long-term value creation in the built environment.

Make sure to sign up for the FREE upcoming webinar on Feb. 29, titled “Getting Started with Thermal Imagery: A Beginners Guide to Thermography for Building Inspections.” Details and registration are available here.

Tom Lonergan is on Zeitview’s team of Property Management experts. He has over a decade of experience in commercial property and portfolio management. Zeitview provides advanced inspections and analytics to global customers in infrastructure and renewable energy.

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