Green Building Benefits ‘Need Better Documentation’

by | Sep 26, 2012

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Wider financial, environmental and social benefits need to be documented for green building if it is to maintain the growth seen in the past decade, according to research by McGraw-Hill Construction.

For Determining the Value of Green Building Investments: A Perspective From Industry Leaders on Triple Bottom Line Decision Making, McGraw-Hill conducted interviews with sustainability leaders from the education, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and federal government sectors on their perspectives about decision making for green building investments.

It found that the most important factor driving green building is return on investment.

More than half of those surveyed cited energy use reduction as a key factor affecting green building decisions. The financial benefits associated with that factor was “often” part of the reason cited as a why energy use reduction was desirable, the report says.

Lower costs in themselves were frequently identified by government agencies as the most important factor affecting green building decisions. Most of the private sector bodies “emphasized the importance of lower costs throughout their interviews.”

According to McGraw Hill Construction, to date, owners have acted on compelling benefits from their green building investments, mainly savings in energy, water, waste and lowered operating costs.

But the company describes these as “only a fraction” of the advantages offered by green buildings – missing is a quantification of the full “triple bottom line” benefits from these investments especially around the social benefits to human performance and well-being, the company says. For example, a better, cleaner internal HVAC system can lead to fewer staff sick days, the report says.

Most respondents report there is a need for more data about the non-financial benefits of green building to encourage their organizations to increase their investment in such projects.

While quantifying the triple bottom line benefits other than financial can be tricky, some methodologies are starting to emerge, the report says. While the publicly-released section of the report does not offer any specific examples of such methods it does say that sustainable construction firms are increasingly using their own proprietary tools to explain the full, holistic benefits of such an approach.

Another factor needed to increase green building is a standardization of metric measurement, the report says. Nearly all of the survey respondents said that they tracked their energy use but there is a wide variation on the specific metrics used to measure energy use, including energy intensity by person or by area, utility data and percentage of increased efficiency achieved, the report says.

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