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From Purpose to Action: Building a Sustainable Future Together
How Innovations in Materials Science Are Improving Office Spaces

Although some return-to-office policies might still be met with resistance, employees and employers can feel better about returning when buildings are safer and more sustainable — thanks to advancements in materials science.

As the push for return to office continues, corporate tenants are evaluating their real estate options and “increasingly seeking spaces that align with their own ESG goals,” according to research from a global commercial real estate firm.

What does this mean, exactly? In addition to meeting building codes and standards, many tenants are looking for low-carbon properties that are also water and energy efficient. For example, when compared to traditional buildings, the development of green buildings has been found to reduce water consumption by 20-30 percent and CO2 emissions by up to 35 percent

At Dow, we know that creating such structures requires high-quality materials and that advancements in materials science are laying the foundation for safe, sustainable spaces — including offices.

Consider the various elements that make up a building — there is potential to make each safer and more sustainable, and Dow is working to do just that.

Wires and cables

Cable jacketing is generally made of halogenated materials, due to their flame-retardant properties. However, when these materials are exposed to flame, they produce toxic fumes and can affect critical electronic components — which can harm building occupants and first responders. Switching to halogen-free flame-retardant materials can reduce the dangerous impacts of halogenated materials and enhance fire safety in buildings.

Pipes

Another vital component of buildings, pipes help circulate and drain numerous liquids into and out of buildings. But as pipes age, they become increasingly vulnerable to corrosion and leaks — which can compromise their structural integrity and performance. Damaged or broken pipes can lead to expensive and dangerous problems including reduced water pressure, flooding and electrocution.

This is why traditional materials such as galvanized steel are being replaced with alternatives such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) — which is more flexible than galvanized steel, copper and other rigid materials used in piping. HDPE resins offer safe and efficient water delivery — supporting seamless, virtually leak-free systems that help reduce water loss. The polyethylene pipe industry estimates HDPE pipes will last between 50 and 100 years, and this longevity translates to replacement cost savings for generations to come.

Roofing

Topping our list is the roof — one of the most important parts of a building as it maintains a property’s structural integrity and protects occupants from the elements. Building standards in certain climate zones now include roof-reflectance requirements — or the minimum level of solar reflectance a roofing material must have. To address these new codes, roofing membranes are being created using the formulation of PVC Ketone Ethylene Ester (KEE) — which helps deliver higher reflectance and thus help reduce the energy needed to cool the building and, in turn, the emissions released into the atmosphere. Another benefit is that as a non-migrating PVC plasticizer, KEE makes PVC supple, pliable and durable — improving the longevity of roofs and reducing environmental concerns such as liquid plasticizers leaching into the environment.

Although some return-to-office policies might still be met with resistance, employees and employers can feel better about returning when buildings are safer and more sustainable — made possible by advancements in materials science and product innovations.

Realizing a circular future for plastics requires every stakeholder working together. That's why Dow is taking an innovative systems approach to identify the gaps, connect the best partners and disrupt how the world values, sources, transforms and monetizes plastic waste.



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