Why Should I Go Green?

By Michael S. Teller, A.I.A., NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Green building and sustainable design are no longer a fad.  For the first time in history, our society is taking energy conservation seriously because it is no longer an option not to.  In this country, buildings account for over 65% of all energy consumption, and according to the US Green Building Council, buildings consume over 60% of all the resources manufactured in the world. 

Those dubious of green design flaunt the incremental increases in the cost of design and construction of a building, ranging from 2% to nearly 20% depending on the level of LEED certification sought.  They shudder to imagine the planning and collaboration required of the design team which may be considerably greater than with a traditionally over-consumptive building.  But, we believe the benefits of building green are tremendous, and far outweigh any of the negative aspects of the process.

In the total investment of a building development, 41% of the money spent is devoted to the construction cost of the building itself. At first glance, it may seem exorbitant to increase the cost of a
building by 10% in order to have it be LEED certified Gold, but looking further, the increase is dwarfed by the benefits.  When condensing the costs of a building over a 30 year lifespan, the construction cost is only 2% of the total, which is second to the salaries of the occupants of an office building, which total a whopping 86.5%.  LEED certified buildings have an overall higher rate of employee satisfaction, employee productivity and, a reduced number of employee sick days than traditionally built buildings.  Additionally, some forward thinking employers are going green as an employee retention tool in order to differentiate them from their competitors.  When considering the cost of hiring and training new employees, the paybacks on the premium for green building is immediate for any increase in productivity and detaining employees.

When facing the challenges of designing a green building take a proactive approach with the design team early on in the process and seek creative and alternative solutions.  It is not only your responsibility, but it is your duty to ensure that the buildings you design are as efficient as possible.  Regardless of whether or not they are going to be LEED certified, sustainable design should be incorporated into all of your projects.