Green Building Is Plummeting

March 14, 2015 11:53 am

Published by Craven Construction

Green building is plummeting

Green building is falling.

Only about 5,000 projects in the U.S. each year are considered “green,” as registered by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Globes and Living Building Challenge projects.

That’s less than 0.1 percent of projects overall. This is frustrating, and it’s terrifying.

Even scarier, fewer than 0.5 percent (about 25,000 commercial buildings) in the U.S. have been LEED certified over the past 15 years.

Building a green structure, a sustainable structure, helps fight climate change, water scarcity and our footprint on the planet, among other benefits. But these are long-term changes and it’s the short-term that’s hurting green construction.

The actual costs of constructing a green building are higher than traditional construction costs, sometimes adding 50 cents -$1 to each square foot. And that’s just the building portion. Tack on extra costs for pricey consultants and certification and you can see why many developers throw up their hands.

Sure, there are savings in energy costs (in the long run), some evidence that employee health and productivity is better and a nice PR boost, but again, long-term, hard to measure and, apparently, not worth the cost.

In order to engage the vast multitude that are NOT building green, we need to make it less costly, easier and more beneficial.

Jerry Yudelson, president of the Green Building Initiative, has ideas for how to do this.

Cut costs: Yudelson says the Green Globes system can assess a building for sustainability at a third the cost of LEED, using assessors trained by a third party as well as a bevy of online tools.

Simplify: Yudelson says LEED started as a simple system, but has turned into a monstrous process (it’s up to Version 4) involving addenda, interpretations and alternative credits and can take accredited professionals to sort out (adding to that cost again). He says we should create a system that deals simply with the big three: Energy, water and waste.

Technology: We need to pool our resources, our information, our stats and our performance indicators so the industry can easily access them and come to see green building ratings as a management and reporting tool, not a fancy luxury. That way, when you’re ready to apply for certification, you’ll have the information at your fingertips and can complete the process in hours — from a phone, computer or tablet.

Sustainable building is a smart choice not only for the environment, but for the economy. The United Nations gets it — a new report points to the benefits of green initiatives in Africa, ranging from employment to natural resources management to poverty reduction. In Egypt, for instance, replacing faulty pipelines and introducing drip irrigation could reduce water loss by 40 percent, helping the Nile River both upstream and downstream.

Green construction can be incorporated at any stage, whether on a new build or a remodel or retrofit. But we need to think long-term when it comes to the benefits. We need to make sustainable building the norm, not the outlier. And we need to look at the impact on future generations more than the impact on our wallet today.

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This post was written by Craven Construction