There are many reasons to build green. There remains only one outdated reason not to build green. Cost has always been the biggest, most tangible objection to the shift towards sustainability.
Cost resistance is losing its credibility. Cost at the expense of the environment and accompanied by high energy costs no longer makes sense, or is that cents.
The Obama Administration has invested in the green movement. Government has shown unprecedented support for the value and future of sustainable construction. The Obama stimulus package has set in motion plans to create about 3.5 million green energy jobs over the next two years. The private sector has been slower than the public sector to respond to the merits of green construction.
Not all the private sector’s cost resistance is unfounded. In the formative years of the green movement, sustainable technology costs were prohibitive. These costs required a true commitment to the future and to the green movement. The return on investment was lacking. However, as sustainable technology has evolved and as demand for equipment has increased, the cost of the technology has declined substantially.
Reports from the National Association of Realtors indicate the costs related to sustainable, green construction have decreased appreciably. Recent estimates put new green construction costs at 1-1.5% above traditional construction costs. Meanwhile, energy savings range can yield a 15-35% savings.
In the 1970’s, the green movement began to gain momentum. In those early years, the principles of sustainable construction tended to be localized and lacking in definition. What was green to one developer was a waste of time and money to another.
Over time, architects, real estate companies, property owners and construction companies compiled both tangible and theoretical research that have made sense of the principle of going green.
The green ideal preserves and restores habitat while eventually producing and exporting resources, materials, energy and water instead of consuming these products. It is a lofty goal. As applied to green building, the principles strive create a building whose life of operation assures a healthy work and living environment while maximizing energy efficiency and minimizing the disruption of the land, water, energy and resources. Green site locations should be minimally invasive and as closely restored to their natural condition as possible upon completion of the project.
Experienced green developers and architects have discovered that the greener the commitment, the greater the savings and the larger the property appreciation. Green is now in demand. Tenants want a healthy and responsible environment, and they are willing to pay for it.
To control construction costs, developers should make concept decisions early. Defining the environmental objectives allows for effective construction management but also avoids expensive changes as the construction proceeds. What developers learn is that each green component is supported by another green decision. Proper insulation and use of light and solar power reduce the cost of the heating and cooling system. Proper water retention can reduce operating costs and consumption. Developers should procure a thorough site analysis and work with their architects to maximize the green return.
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Rick Walker is the CEO of Green Efficient. GreenEfficient is the leader in the LEED building maintenance and operations market. Primarily serving Texas, their LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED-APS) manage commercial facilities using their integrated services portfolio of LEED-compliant janitorial services, Integrated Pest Management services, HVAC maintenance, lawn care services, purchasing oversight, occupant training and USGBC submittal services. Offices in Houston, Austin, Dallas and Corpus Christi enable the most active Texas LEED construction markets to be covered by their specialty services. For information on LEED, green building and sustainable products, visit their blog: theLEED