Debunking the myth about green building costs

A new report from Air Quality Sciences, entitled If You Build It Green, They Will Come, provides evidence that building green is not as cost prohibitive as critics claim. “Although sustainable (green) building is catching on across the U.S., questions about higher first costs and lower return on investment remain a stumbling block for many developers, designers, building owners and facility managers,” says Anthony G. Worthan, MPH, AQS president and chief operating officer.

“The bottom line is first costs associated with green building are significantly lower (0 to 3%) than previously reported (10% to 25%). Clearly, green building is affordable. The economic outlook gets even better if improvements in people’s comfort and productivity are taken into account and green building goals are incorporated as early as possible into the design process,” he says.

Based on a review of major economic studies of buildings designed and constructed to meet LEED Green Building Rating System˙ requirements, this report addresses the issues most on the minds of those who may have an interest in developing, designing, and constructing green buildings, but up to this point have been hesitant. In addition to concerns about higher first costs and lower returns on investment, the report also takes a look at building commissioning and building flush out, two important strategies for creating healthy indoor environments.

“Many view building commissioning as an optional step that has no economic benefit. If planned and implemented properly, commissioning is an effective way to verify that the planning, design, construction, and operation of the building are achieving set goals,” Worthan explains.

The studies reviewed found that depending on the size of the project, commissioning costs may range from 0.3% to 4.0% of construction costs. Energy savings (up to 10%) can more than make up for these costs. Commissioning also can realize savings by significantly reducing or even eliminating costly change orders, reducing requests for cost information, ensuring proper system/component selection, improving building systems performance, and reducing call backs, the report said.

The report features a bibliography of the studies reviewed. If You Build It Green, They Will Come is available free of charge from the Aerias-AQS IAQ Resource Center Web site, under Premium Content.