One of the primary objections to green building made by non-believers is related to money, of course. Doesn’t money always seem to be a driving force in our society? However, there are some things that we should not postpone addressing, like environmental sustainability and global warming. It is imperative that building design, engineering, and construction practices incorporate green principles and strategies. Unfortunately, there is a false belief held by many industry members that green buildings cost significantly more to construct, and that slows down the adoption of green technologies and practicesForget the false beliefs and assumptions. Here are some facts. The World Green Building Council tackled the issue of measuring costs and the financial value of the benefits of green building. In the report, The Business Case for Green Building, the key findings are clear that building green does not have to cost more when integrated development strategies are implemented in areas of cost, program management, and environmental management. The Council recognizes that there may be a cost premium, but it is not as high as people believe. Sweetening the green pot is the fact a finished building commands higher sales prices and higher rents; has lower lifetime operating and maintenance costs; and lowers water and energy usage.
How Wide is Your Perception Gap?
The World Green Building Council calls the difference between what green industry members perceive as the cost premium for building green (.9 to 29 percent) versus the actual cost premium (-.4 to 12.5 percent) the ‘perception gap.’ The USGBC answers a question as to whether green building costs more with an unequivocal “no!” LEED certified projects do not have to cost one red cent more if the right strategies are used to keep budgets on target. The key is approaching the building design, engineering, and construction holistically by making good upfront decisions and using a life cycle approach. The life cycle approach considers the Return on Investment over the life of the project and does not simply focus only on construction costs.
One of the lessons learned in green building is that adding high-end green features like photovoltaics can drive costs up in buildings (especially demonstration buildings), creating an impression that all green buildings are expensive. Not every building can afford state-of-the-art green technologies, but that doesn’t mean they should abandon green design and construction principles. The first LEED Gold certified hospital was Providence Newberg Medical Center in Oregon. The project stayed on budget by using recycled materials as much as possible, recycling 75 percent of its construction wastes, and following every LEED suggestion that made sense for the project and was affordable. The project has bioswales for stormwater management, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and so on.
Forget the Crystal Chandelier
There is another way to keep green building construction costs down: Make good decisions. Does the building lobby really need a $50,000 chandelier or a marble statue? Can a less expensive heating and cooling system be installed in a house if the building envelope is designed to be more efficient? Green construction projects, whether new or rehab, are affordable if it is not “business as usual.” Look at the project holistically, assess each decision in view of the whole, and consider the mix of green components added that can keeps costs in balance.
It seems the green building proponents need to do a better job of increasing industry awareness of green costs. Green Building Research Institute wants to do its part so the course, Building Green On a Budget: A Life Cycle Approach, was developed by industry expert Nicole Keeler to help close the perception gap. Available on May 14th, 2014, you will learn ways to approach projects to achieve green with going into the red.
Do you think building green is much more expensive that building traditional? If so, what made you come to that conclusion?