In most construction industry sectors, more and more people are coming to accept the idea that sustainable building practices and design are an important part of reducing carbon emissions.
With buildings accounting for almost 40 per cent of emissions in the US, for instance according to the US Green Building Council, incorporating positive environmental measures into architectural and construction industry practices is crucial from an environmental perspective.
Skeptics may wonder whether such measures stack up commercially and whether the commercial returns to building owners from having an environmentally sustainable building really make it worth the cost.
According to Argentina Green Building Council president Carlos Grinberg, the answer is a resounding yes.
Grinberg says there are three core factors to contemplate when considering whether or not incorporating sustainable design and construction techniques into a building is worth it. He says one must consider what extra initial costs are involved, the benefits of sustainable design and construction in terms of cost savings over the life of the building and the extra benefits to corporate tenants – and thus corporate property owners – in terms of staff morale and productivity.
In terms of cost, Grinberg says that based on 2005 figures, the cost of an average LEED-certified new building in the US was around two per cent higher than that of buildings of similar size andpurpose that were not LEED-certified.
Since then, he says, costs associated with sustainable building have fallen further, and even then, these costs can be further reduced still by applying sustainable design criteria in the early stages of project planning.
As for the benefits, Grinberg believes these can be substantial. This is particularly the case with commercial, industrial and retail buildings as the higher quality of indoor environment associated with sustainable buildings feeds through into a healthier and more pleasant work atmosphere, in turn leading to higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, higher levels of employee morale, lower staff turnover rates and the enhancement of the firm’s reputation as an employer of choice.
Indeed, according to Grinberg, some studies have shown that LEED-certified buildings can increase productivity by up to 16 per cent.
Because of this, and because of the cost savings in terms of energy efficiency, owners of LEED certified buildings – or buildings otherwise certified as sustainable according to the certification scheme used in the country in question – are able to charge a significant premium in terms of rent.
The bottom line, Grinberg says, is that in the vast majority of cases, the benefits of sustainable building to owners and tenants of commercial property far outweigh any extra initial costs involved: Green building is commercially viable, and also commercially beneficial.
More than that, Grinberg believes that through promoting sustainable building, organisations such as his, both in Argentina and worldwide, are not just promoting a commercially viable phenomenon, they are also contributing to a more efficiently managed and run economy.
In this regard, he says a ‘paradigm shift’ within the construction market is underway and must continue to evolve.
Grinberg says that green building not only makes commercial sense, it also achieves something far bigger.