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Costs and Benefits of Green Building Design

posted 14 Sep 2015, 11:00 by Deleted user   [ updated 14 Sep 2015, 11:00 ]
My answer to the following question on Quora:

Costs: How much does it cost and what are the benefits of a green building design?

If I understand your question correctly, you seem to want to know what are the costs of designing a green building and not the actual costs of building one.

If that is exactly your question, then yes, designing a green building is significantly more expensive than designing a conventional building. Simply because it is a lot more time consuming and also requires an integrated approach among all stake holders.

Repeatedly bringing all consultants to one forum and analysing building performance vs pre-set goals costs money and time. Various analysis like energy simulations, water balance, ventilations and comfort analysis, daylighting etc can often go on for months before a perfect combination of design, materials and execution strategy is arrived at.

In percentage terms the design phase is by far the most expensive phase of building green compared to building conventional. Contrary to popular belief the actual cost of building the green building may not be significantly higher unless off-course one is trying to create some kind of an environmental show-piece.

If done smartly a good performance building can also be achieved at same costs as a conventional building. In terms of overall project cost any escalation in costs due to usage of high performance materials or systems is small enough to be absorbed well within the profit margins of the property developer or in case of a self use building the return on investment is quite attractive to justify this minor escalation which rarely goes beyond 5%.

The Benefits
Apart from the well known benefits of a green building that have been well discussed on this forum; I think the biggest benefit of green buildings is that it demands the designers to be ahead of the curve.

By their inherent nature green buildings require an integrated approach among project teams which in turn ensures the building plans are frozen well in advance. Knowing a product in and out well before its created improves its marketability and also reduces costs.

No doubt that conventional buildings can follow the approach mentioned above but this almost never happens because conventional buildings have conventional goals which requires conventional management techniques and there is no push for the project teams to get out of their comfort zones. Hence, designs are created as and when required without the involvement of team members working in other areas.

In my experience, costs are rarely a deterrent to practising green building design as there is already a fairly attractive business model in place. But it is the requirement to get out of the comfort zone, working in an integrated manner with other teams, delivering results early, spending disproportionate time finalising materials and systems and other complications that go with designing a high performance building that puts developers and project teams off.

Nobody wants to fix something unless there is unanimous agreement that its broken. Humans are the largest herd on the planet. Very few breakaway successfully and until they do the others have no one to follow.

Article by: Yusuf Turab
Y T Enterprises