The Benefits of Going Green
Green design not only reduces a facility's impact on the environment, but also benefits a business in financial - and nonfinancial - ways.
Jennifer Crawford and Peter Morris Davis Langdon (Nov 08)
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Impact to Businesses
initial cost of a building is always important to any business wishing
to expand their building space. As our report shows, green strategies
can be incorporated into the building design, resulting in a cleaner,
greener, healthier building at little or no initial cost. These
buildings have many financial benefits that accrue over the life of the
building, including reduced energy and operating costs, improved
employee well-being, and reduced insurance costs. The long-term
financial benefits combined with the low first cost can make green
buildings contributors to the businesses' bottom line.
buildings can improve the financial status of some businesses in other
ways as well. A recent study by CoStar found that LEED-rated buildings
have a higher occupancy rate than non-LEED buildings, suggesting that
more tenants prefer to rent space in green buildings than in non-green
buildings. Interestingly, this study also reported that green buildings
are able to garner higher rents than non-green buildings, suggesting
that more tenants are willing to pay a premium for a cleaner, healthier
space. Other studies suggest additional benefits, including improved
happiness and well-being for the employee, and less sick time used.
Greening Beyond Individual Buildings
the realities of climate change have become more widely known and the
impact of global warming on the health and well-being of people more of
a concern, more and more cities and communities have been looking
toward greener strategies to help minimize environmental impact and
improve the quality of life for their citizens. The number of cities,
counties, and regions instituting green strategies and requirements for
buildings and infrastructure can only be expected to increase in the
These green strategies can have a huge impact on the
economic competitiveness of cities and regions. Green buildings tend to
be more energy and water efficient, and thus are more desirable by
businesses and the public. Non-building green strategies, such as
incorporating green spaces or improving or expanding public transit
options, can help reduce traffic in congested areas, as well as improve
air quality when fewer cars are on the road.
In addition, just
as more businesses are showing a preference for green offices, more
people are showing a preference for living in cleaner, greener cities
and communities. As the cost of fuel continues to rise, public desire
for more efficient buildings, better public transportation options, and
better protection of green spaces, water, and other natural resources
can be expected to also increase.
Greening Existing Buildings
more and more new buildings are being built to meet environmentally
friendly standards, new buildings still account for only a fraction of
the total volume of the built environment within the United States.
Incorporating green strategies into existing building space is,
therefore, perhaps even more important than greening the new ones.
are a number of LEED rating systems directed toward reusing existing
buildings, including two previously mentioned, LEED for Existing
Buildings and LEED for Commercial Interiors. But even buildings where
owners are not prepared to attempt a LEED rating can still be made more
environmentally friendly with minimal additional cost.
to green existing building stock can be as simple as swapping to more
efficient lights and encouraging a reduction in waste as a company
mandate or goal. They can also include more extensive strategies, such
as retrofitting for more efficient heating and cooling systems. These
can be very effective if done in conjunction with planned replacement
There are a number of additional strategies that
companies can employ to become more green, which require no
modifications to the buildings at all. These include providing
incentives or assistance to employees to carpool or use public
transportation; allowing flexible schedules and/or telecommuting;
instituting recycling programs within their facilities along with an
associated focus on reducing waste; requiring the use of nontoxic
cleaning supplies; and transitioning landscaping to more
drought-tolerant, native species.
cost is always a consideration, the evidence is mounting that going
green does not have to impact the financial bottom line. Thoughtful
planning and design can make the transition to greener facilities
easier, with a minimum of cost impact. In addition, even simple changes
can lead to savings in energy used, carbon emitted, and money spent.
the threat of global warming continues to grow, sustainable facilities
and site planning are becoming more imperative. Embracing green design
not only reduces the impact of buildings on the natural environment,
but can also greatly benefit businesses in financial and nonfinancial