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Cost of Green Building

Often the first question is “does building green cost more than traditional construction?” The simple answer is: Yes, it does cost more to build green, but not because of the obvious reasons like the additional cost of a photovoltaic system to offset electricity purchased from the local utility company, or a geothermal HVAC system, or a rainwater harvesting system or a vegetated roof. The simple answer is that a green building requires more attention to simple details. Details like sealing small openings in ceilings and walls to prevent air infiltration. Details like using water resistant flooring at exterior doors, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and using products that do not emit toxic gases long after the building is occupied. The simple answer is that green buildings cost more because they are built better!

The more complex answer to this question is: Yes, it does cost more to build green because each project has a unique set of circumstances that will impact the cost. While this is true for all buildings, it is particularly true for green buildings. In most cases green buildings can be built within 2% budget of traditional construction to achieve a moderate level of sustainable design, generally equivalent to a LEED Silver rating*. The reality is that when green features like more durable materials, alternative energy sources and water conservation systems are included in a building; the end result is that it cost less over the life of the building. Additionally, when green features such as a fresh air circulation system to improved air quality and daylighting are incorporated in a building, studies have shown intangible benefits such as increased occupant satisfaction and increased learning, productivity and morale.

In green building there are many tactical tradeoffs that occur that actually equal out the cost. For example, installing high efficiency lighting can reduce HVAC equipment requirements. The additional cost of the lighting is offset by lower initial cost of HVAC equipment as well as its operating cost over the life of the two systems. It is possible to price the projects sustainable features and evaluate the tradeoffs in a cost effective and efficient manner that will satisfy your goals and budget. After all, when compared to traditional building, green building is the logical choice.

*source: PREA Quarterly, Summer 2007 What does green really cost? Peter Morris, Davis Langdon


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