According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, buildings in the U.S. account for more than 35 percent of total energy use; more than 65 percent of total electricity consumption; more than 35 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions, and more than 10 percent of the total water consumption.” With this kind of effect on the environment as a whole, building “green” has become a necessity. Building sustainable (“green”) structures reduces their overall impact on the natural environment by using water, energy, and other natural resources efficiently and reducing pollution, waste, and environmental deterioration and destruction, but that’s not all. Here are five important benefits of building “green”:
1. Green Construction is Cost-effective
The bottom line is that green buildings are more cost-effective than traditional ones.The costs for sustainable construction are less than 13% higher than the cost of traditional construction. This minor difference in overall expenditures will be covered by significantly lower operating costs of the building. In addition, a report entitled, The Business Case for Green Building (World Green Building Council, 2012) detailed the cost benefits of Energy Star and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified sustainable buildings. This report combined data from a number of sustainability studies. It was reported that since 2001, there has been a steady decrease in the cost of sustainable buildings due to improved green construction methods and better supply management of sustainable materials. Both have brought overall costs down. This report also stated that the pool of green building professionals has increased, and the resources needed to learn about sustainable construction are more abundant and readily available.
2. Green Buildings Are Worth More Money
Market studies have shown that both residential and commercial buildings that are certified sustainable can draw over 25 percent higher prices than traditional buildings. In addition, the more “green” a building is, the higher the price will be (LEED certification in increasing order: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum). In other words, an LEED Platinum building would potentially command a higher selling price than a LEED Silver building. Also, occupancy rates have also been found to be more than 20 percent higher for LEED certified buildings which leads to an increase in rental revenues.
3. Green Buildings Save Energy, Water and Money
Most people know that green buildings use less energy than traditional buildings, but the question is: how much? Studies of LEED structures have shown that these sustainable buildings use up to 35 percent less energy. These energy savings increase with each LEED level of certification. In fact, energy-efficient net zero structures supply electricity back into the utility grid, resulting in no energy costs at the end of a year. Additionally, green buildings with incorporated water-saving methods (water-efficient plumbing fixtures; water recycling systems; irrigation control systems, etc.) use about 38 percent less water than comparable non-sustainable buildings. From the start, owners and tenants will see savings in their energy and water bills.
4. Tax Incentives for Green Buildings
Since 2005 federal tax incentives have prompted the construction of both residential and commercial sustainable buildings. Additionally, many state governments have also enacted tax provisions to encourage energy-efficient construction. Consult a tax expert for more information about the current tax incentives for building green or making sustainable home improvements.
5. Health and Productivity: Less Obvious Financial Benefits
Sick building syndrome is a problem that has afflicted the American workforce for decades. This “epidemic” costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost work hours and absenteeism. By default, sustainable buildings are much healthier than traditional buildings. They have cleaner air, more suitable light, and are made of safer, non-toxic materials. These factors have an enormous impact on workers’ overall health and welfare. For example, a research study found that absenteeism was reduced by 40 percent in thirty-one of Seattle’s sustainable office buildings (sponsored by the City of Seattle) when compared to absentee rates in conventional buildings. A number of other research studies have found that natural daylight and window views (of nature) are two of the most important elements for reduced stress levels which in turn, lead to increased productivity in employees. Also, additional studies have linked better ventilation with more than a 10 percent gain in productivity; a direct result of improved outside air rates, committed delivery of fresh air to work areas, and lower levels of pollutants. Increased productivity translates into increased revenues and is a driving force for many corporations to go green.
By reducing energy and water consumption, employing green materials and strategies, and supporting a healthier, happier workforce, green design and sustainable construction not only benefit architects, owners, and tenants of green buildings but society as a whole, economically and environmentally. With dwindling natural resources and escalating energy and healthcare costs, going green may be the key to a brighter future.