Green buildings can reduce these costs significantly. According to a study by Gregory H. Kats, director of financing for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), green buildings reduce energy consumption by 25 to 30 percent on average. Businesses in the United States spend $108 billion annually on energy for their facilities, according to the DOE. A 30 percent cut in this cost would represent $32 billion annually in savings for businesses across the country.
The Work Environment
But going green is about more than just reducing energy costs; it is also about maintaining a healthy workforce. Work environment-related illnesses can be significantly improved by a number of commonly used green-building methods, including increased ventilation, reduced air recirculation, improved filtration, ultraviolet disinfection of air, reduced office sharing and occupant density.
According to a 2000 study by William J. Fisk of the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory, such improvements significantly lower the occurrence of four of the most common respiratory illnesses. These account for 176 million days of lost work at a cost of $70 billion a year due to the cost of treatment. Healthy building design can also create a 9 to 20 percent reduction in cases of the common cold, translating into 16 to 37 million fewer cases annually. This annual reduction could save U.S. businesses as much as $14 billion a year.
To measure the value of green buildings, we must consider the cost compared to traditional building practices. Many people think it’s more expensive than conventional building methods. While building green may come at a higher initial cost than traditional building methods, green investments are easily regained over time.
In The Economics of Green Building, author David Gottfried estimates the initial construction of green buildings typically accounts for only 2 percent of the total cost, with operations and maintenance accounting for 6 percent. Payroll costs, however, represent 92 percent, showing a company’s greatest investment is in its workforce. When you consider the yearly savings that result from reducing lost work time and improving worker health that result from green businesses, the benefits of green building becomes even more obvious.
Many businesses have the misconception that catering to environmental needs comes at the expense of style, convenience and state-of-the-art design, when in actuality modern developments have made green building a competitive, high-tech construction and renovation option for businesses. In the near future, with more key corporations reaping the benefits of going green, companies that resist the green movement will face staunch criticism and, ultimately, risk of failure.
Green building, through demonstrated return on investment, long-term energy savings and improved worker health and productivity, has undeniably become a benchmark in industrial and commercial building and promises to be an even greater necessity in the years to come.