Green Building is More Cost Effective Than Ever
It used to be that to implement environmentally friendly building techniques, materials and plans, a long and drawn-out process of testing, re-testing, coming up with comparative specifications and spending a great deal of time convincing zoning boards that the new way really was the right way to go, was an exhaustive project that left many designers and builders leery of using green construction technologies.
With today's design innovation, green-friendly civil infrastructure and advances in construction technology, it has become far more reasonable for engineers, planners and construction management to calculate the true costs of construction and effects that construction will have on our environment. Rather than looking strictly at dollar figures, our clients are considering the impact the construction of their new building or civic improvement will have on the environment as well as the costs that structure will have for decades into the future in terms of energy savings, renewable energy technologies, other technological and social advancements that will require retrofits and other considerations that were not on the planning board even 15 years ago.
Environmentally friendly materials helping to achieve LEED credits represent a small increment in price; however, the difference has been decreasing in the last couple of years -- sometimes without any price variation at all, e.g. low VOC paint, use of fly ash/slag in concrete mix, etc. And as green materials are being use more often, more advanced specifications and tests are being conducted on them, creating a library of information to back up existing information. Global information sharing makes it easier to present findings from other countries while dealing with zoning and codes boards. As our world gets closer together, we are better able to share our knowledge instead of having to rediscover the wheel.
As consumer demand for environmentally friendly products, materials and sourcing creates drive for manufacturers to produce more of those green products, it's also changing the ideas held by zoning boards and codes inspectors. By creating a strong push for green technologies, the consumer has forced manufacturers to investigate new technologies, materials and energy sources. This in turn has created a world of information to bridge the gap between consumer and building inspection.
But beyond the building itself, what about the builder's practices? If a green building is put together using renewable resources, but they have to be hauled from around the world, is it really green? What about the contractor who is more interested in buying something that claims to be green while having less-than-sustainable manufacturing processes? We think you should be able to feel as good about your structure as it is going up as you do once it's complete. That's why MCM Miami include sustainable practices in our strong commitment to promoting green building excellence.
LEED certification has become the milestone by which green buildings are measured. An exhaustive survey in 2004 of 61 buildings seeking LEED certification as compared to similar buildings which did not seek certification found that both sets of buildings had very similar initial costs, with the LEED building typically being within 2% of the conventional building or less. By comparison, the savings that LEED certified buildings see over their lifespan is close to 20% of the construction costs, according to a Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) report released in 2003. Studies such as these make a great case for how building green does not cost significantly more than conventional structures, and pays back 20% of its cost over its lifespan, leading to a realized cost of 80% of a conventional structure.
The MTC report also discussed benefits typically not taken into consideration when making building designs but which are considered fairly standard green construction considerations. These include increases in ventilation, temperature and lighting control, as well as increased daylighting. The study also found that there was a related increase in employee productivity in these buildings. Not only does LEED certification end up costing less, it also leads to productivity and financial gains.
Another unintended consequence of green construction becoming more affordable is that conventionally built structures are becoming more obsolete, with the construction of green structures having increased to 20-25% of all new structures.
Notable LEED certified buildings in the Miami area include the ISD Trade Shop Facility, which was the first LEED Silver Certified structure in the area in use by county employees, and the ISD West Lot, which was LEED Gold Certified. But one of the most astounding LEED project in the area is the Passenger Cruise Terminal D. A multi-phase project covering over 27,000 square feet and which had a cruise ship arriving a mere two days after the substantial completion date, the structure not only met the client's requirement of basic LEED certification, it exceeded it by attaining a LEED Silver Certification.
As companies realize the benefits and reduced total cost of green buildings, the demand for conventionally constructed buildings has shown a related decrease. Miami's skyline already reflects these trends, with MCM proudly contributing to it.