The San Jose Mercury-News printed my letter to the editor today, in response to their recent article on green building, but they abridged it.
Here’s the full text (including some references):
To the Editor:
Your otherwise excellent article, Going Green in Los Gatos, says ‘Going green adds about 10 to 15 percent to construction costs. But over time, it will yield savings through lower energy and water bills and healthier workers who are exposed to more natural light and less use of toxic paints and adhesives.’
The second sentence is true. The first is not, even though it’s commonly believed — even by building industry professionals.
A comprehensive analysis of green building projects by the State of California shows first cost increments more in the 0-2% range — if ‘greening’ is designed in, not slapped on as an afterthought. The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings: A Report to California’s Sustainable Building Task Force finds that ‘an upfront investment of less than two percent of construction costs yields life cycle savings of over ten times the initial investment.”
(For example, ‘an initial upfront investment of up to $100,000 to incorporate green building features into a $5 million project would result in a savings of at least $1 million over the life of the building’ — only a 2% additional ‘first cost’ investment, and a nearly 50% per year return on that investment.)
That’s a pretty handsome return, with plenty of side benefits, and almost no risk. The key to profitability: bring ‘greening’ to the design process early, and make the design and building process integrated, not piecemeal.
Gil Friend
President & CEO
Natural Logic is a strategic consulting firm (based in Berkeley CA) that helps companies and communities build profit, competitive advantage and quality of life through exceptional environmental performance.

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