The Benefits of Green Building

When many people hear the term “going green” or “green building” they think something along the lines of this: “sounds like a great idea but…. what’s the bottom line?” Many question the tangible real world benefits of green building compared to the actual cost of “going green”.

Although it is true that, depending on the level of certification achieved, there will be additional first costs. These can be as low 1% or as high as 8% or more. But it would be a mistake to assume that is the whole story. When compared to the environmental benefits, the return on investment, government incentives and the intangible marketing opportunities we believe that LEED ultimately costs nothing. That’s right, ZERO.

Based on a study of 12 GSA LEED certified green buildings here are some of the benefits that were found on these projects:

  • 13% lower maintenance costs
  • 26% lower energy use
  • 27% higher level of occupant satisfaction (means increased productivity)
  • 33% lower CO2 emissions
  • 30% lower water usage
  • 50% waste cost savings

Of course, to truly understand the benefits of green building it requires that we shift our focus from first cost of construction to long term operating costs.  The return on investment must be considered.  Operating expenses (i.e. lighting, cooling and maintenance) make up the largest part of the costs of owning a building.  This is a building’s real cost.  In fact, according to the National Research Council 1998 this can be as high as 85% of the cost of owning a building.  Many building owners are finding that “green” improvements are paying for themselves in three years or less.

So in conclusion, green design is smart design.  Incorporating green building improvements in your next building project is a financially sound investment.

Mark Bankert LEED AP