In a recent blog entry we lamented on the green building certification wars. At the risk of stating the obvious, challenges with green building certifications doesn’t mean it has to have an impact on building green, choosing sustainable design or specifying moveable walls! The construction and design industries have been educated in the benefits of building green and it’s not entirely about certification. In recognition of Earth Day, April 22, 2015 maybe now’s a good time to be reminded that when it comes to building and protecting our planet the end doesn’t justify the means.
Achieving LEED certification is a coveted sustainable goal for many organizations. The energy savings, and reduced environmental impact LEED certified building offer are celebrated across the globe. Sustainability is a choice of values however, not a plaque on the wall or content for a positive press release. If LEED certification, reaching a WELL Building Standard or Living Building Challenge is out of reach, specifying moveable wall and sustainable products can still be integrated into your design and green building plans. Adopting the principles of green building whether certification is sought or not is what will make the fastest and greatest impact on the planet. Making conscious green choices by specifying sustainable building products, diverting construction waste and reducing the use of raw materials has become an integral part of nonresidential and residential green building construction.
Factors driving green building market:
- Cost savings and incentives for business and tax payers
- Improved employee and public health gains from green buildings
- Strong Market demand
- High percentage of Non-residential commercial and institutional projects specifying green construction
- Governmental policies and mandates requiring green building methods
- Increased property values
With all the factors pointing to the benefits of green building there are still the nay-sayers out there that need convincing. “Green building cost too much. “sustainable design is ugly and cold”, “green construction takes longer to design and build.” If you are hearing these excuses and complaints with your customers or stakeholders keep reading.
Green Building Market: Lower Cost High Return
A 2007 study of LEED certified buildings discovered there is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings.1 Citing less consumption of energy, lower maintenance costs, and higher occupant satisfaction, green building offers a much higher return than expected.
With the increased market demand, the manufacturing of green building components and materials has increased. Increased supply and options in sustainable building material products has also resulted in price reductions. Specifying moveable walls is a good example. In the past when designers specified moveable walls the cost could not compete with traditional gypsum wall construction. As demountable wall manufacturing and wall panel options have expanded, estimates have become highly competitive and specifying moveable walls in some cases can result in lower costs than traditional wall construction.
Project managers claiming sustainable design cost more because of increased research, analysis and selection of alternative products has also been negated. By implementing the integrated design process and bringing consultants, stakeholders, designers and contractors together early on, the integrated design process actually helps to avoid costly charges at later stages of construction.
When it comes to higher return, it is proven that Green buildings consume less energy. Compared to the average commercial building, the LEED Gold buildings in the General Services Administration’s portfolio generally3:
- Consume 25% less energy and 11% less water
- Have 19% lower maintenance costs
- 27% higher occupant satisfaction
- 34% lower greenhouse gas emissions
Green is the New Black
In his book The Shape of Green, Lance Hosey argues that “Beauty is inherent to sustainability, for how things look and feel is as important as how they’re made.”2 Fortunately many designers and architects are on board with green building and sustainable design for these reasons. The lessons from the environmental push during the energy crisis of the 70s and the “sick” building syndrome are not lost on designers today. Attention to air quality, daylighting and increased use of recycled, recyclable and reusable products such as flexible removable glass walled work stations that can be reconfigured as building needs change, are a few of the solutions designers and architects are incorporating today. Sustainable design doesn’t have to be traditional wood furnishings and coarse upholstery. The popularity of sustainable design has launched innovative products that beautify the space while reducing the buildings carbon footprint.
Green certification controversies aside, sustainable design and green building is increasing momentum and doesn’t show any sign of peaking soon. “In the end,” writes Senegalese poet Baba Dioum, “We conserve only what we love.”
References:1http://sustainability.ucr.edu/docs/leed-cost-of-green.pdf 2http://www.shapeofgreendesign.com/ 3http://www.usgbc.org/articles/green-building-facts 4http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lance-hosey/six-myths-of-sustainable-design_b_6823050.html