Monday, November 5, 2007

Why Green Building Has Staying Power

National Real Estate Investor has an article by Beth Mattson-Teig: Why Green Building Has Staying Power.

I found it interesting that 84% of corporate users expect to own or lease a green building five years from now with only 52% currently owning or leasing a green building with corporate users expecting the amount of green facilities they own or lease to more than double from 9% to 21%.

For green building to stay, two factors need to come into play: costs and market demand.

As long as green building is more expensive than conventional building, developers and operators will stay with conventional methods. Tax breaks and financial incentives can reduce the price differential and encourage green building.

Once there is more market demand, then developers and operators will pay more attention. If tenants are willing to pay more for a green building, then the price differential will be affected as well. A developer and operator will be more more willing to take on the premium cost of green building if the tenants will also carry part of the burden. The survey mentioned in the article indicates that the market demand is there and is growing.

The big problem with green building is that it is hard to retrofit existing buildings to green standards. Building a brand new building, instead of rehabilitating an existing building leads to a greater consumption of resources. It is hard to turn any existing tower building into a green building. But by being in a central business district close to public transportation and encouraging the use of public transportation you can reduce the environmental impact of the building. I have not seen any studies, but I would guess that more resources are consumed driving to a building than the building itself.

Putting up a new building in the suburbs means tearing down the trees and biomass that was on the site. The parking lot leads to more runoff and damage to aquifers. The new materials need to be harvested, manufactured and transported. That means more mining and more energy consumption.

I am all for green building and assessing the impact on the environment. I think more resources need to be focused on retrofitting existing, centrally-located buildings, with an emphasis on public transportation, biking and lower impact means of commuting.

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