Making Green Buildings pay

Where the value lies in going green. 

The cost of a sustainable building is all too often looked upon as solely the up-front capital expenditure on projects. 'More efficient' can of course mean 'more expensive' in terms of the purchase price of parts of a building, but the longer term view has to be taken when we are addressing the issue of the real value of ‘going green’.

There is enough evidence now to arm consultants with a persuasive argument that higher up-front investment will not only reap environmental benefits, but will also result in financial gains that will far outweigh that initial cost.

The clincher for clients to invest in more sustainable buildings is to show them where else they can find gold in green. The Building Research Establishment recently cited a nine-year study carried out on buildings in London to assess the effect of BREEAM ratings on those properties. Their findings showed an average of 18% higher sale prices and 21% higher rental rates for those with BREEAM ratings.

There is also growing information that gives the lie to the common refrain that sustainable design ratchets up build costs to unfeasible levels.

A piece of work done be Sweett Group and BRE in 2014 looked at the numbers from three real-world projects and married up the up font costs of a sustainable approach with the long-term payback from those measures.

They found either hardly any or no additional up front costs, and concluded that a design aimed to achieve a low BREEAM rating should not impact on that initial spend. If sights were set a little higher in terms of the desired BREEAM score, the extra cost was around the two per cent mark, with a timespan of between two and five years for the resulting utility savings to weigh that off.

A paper by the World Green Building Council produced in 2013 also looked at the cost and benefits of building green, and pointed to a wealth of evidence that suggests a sustainable approach doesn’t have to cost much or any more than a traditional build process, and that it is the ‘perception gap’ that must be closed to encourage more developers to get on board.

The job of bridging that gap falls on the shoulders of the consultants, and they now have the evidence to support their argument that building green does not have to cost the earth, but can pave the way to a far more lucrative future for our buildings.

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications. 

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