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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.

Nov 08
(page 2 of 2)
Impact to Businesses
The 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.

Green 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
As 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 future.

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
While 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.

There 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.

Strategies 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 or maintenance.

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.

In Sum
While 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.

As 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 ways.

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