Posted by: nedpelger | November 21, 2008

The Cost of Building Green

As Kermit the Frog reminds us, it’s not always easy being green. Are you hearing much about green, or sustainable building practices, on your projects? It seems to be at least a point of discussion from Owners these days. Though in Central Pennsylvania, most industry professionals agree that buyers, tenants and building occupants in general don’t seem too interested in green building. We often lag trends in our area, as I read that green building has become much more important in many parts of the USA.

An Engineering News Record blog notes that the US Green Building Council reports that green building practices only add 2.5% to building cost, on average. That seems like a useless statistic to me, as building costs vary so much, for a variety of design and construction reasons. I doubt a simple comparison of square foot costs would tell us much about green vs non-green building. So I’d recommend being skeptical of that statistic. As Mark Twain noted, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”

The facts of green building costs seem embedded in a given project’s design and construction. I always include many green building concepts simply because they represent good design. For example, the concept of “Build tight and ventilate right” costs little and has a great return on investment in energy savings and cleaner indoor air. On the other hand, I see things like roof gardens that add a large cost for little benefit other than bragging rights.

The blog article notes that people are building both low cost green buildings and high cost green buildings. That seems true to me. I’m amazed at how little Owners and Tenants typically care about potential variation of costs in their buildings that come from different design options. Both building first cost prices and building operational costs vary greatly depending on design decisions, but few Owners or Tenants really explore these options. That’s where the smart money goes, IMHO.

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