When people hear the phrase "green building," they often associate it with the environment. It means fewer materials, less pollution and more eco-friendly habits. These structures have come at a time when more people are putting an emphasis on preserving their surroundings. However, while some people focus on the sustainable design, they may have completely pushed the other advantages to the side. Along with environmentally friendly benefits, green construction also has economic perks.
1. Less energy usage
There are myriad buildings in the U.S. They serve as homes, businesses, factories, schools and companies' headquarters. As useful as they are, these structures are also wasteful. According to the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, buildings use 36 percent of the nation's energy and 68 percent of the country's electricity. They require lights, heating and cooling, water and technology. All of these items need energy, and when it comes to commercial buildings, electricity is used in abundance.
Green buildings use various methods of reducing their energy consumption. While renewable resources such as solar and wind power are alternative options, they aren't always the most logical choices for lowering energy usage. These require an investment that may not be plausible at the time. However, there are plenty of ways to reduce a building's energy usage without adding costs. Start by turning off any lights or equipment that you don't need. According to National Grid, leaving just one computer on overnight could add $30 to your annual bill. However, for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy you save, you could reduce your utility bill by about $100. You could also lower energy usage by changing the office temperature based on the weather during off hours and keeping equipment clean and up to date.
2. More jobs
All occupations require skilled workers, and green building is no different. While construction needs people who know how to use the proper tools and the designs that are best for certain purposes, its subsectors also need people skilled in the trade to follow guidelines. Structures that are Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified must meet certain criteria, but they can't if people aren't sure what those are or how to go about achieving them.
Green construction requires workers who have that knowledge, and luckily, the practice is bringing even more people to the sector. According to a recent report from the U.S. Green Building Council and Booz Allen Hamilton, green building employed 2.3 million Americans in 2014 and that number is only expected to grow in the upcoming years. By 2018, this construction sector will add 1.1 million new positions with more than one-third related to LEED, an infographic for the study showed.
"More than 2.3 million U.S. workers are taking home $134 billion annually in large part because of green building programs like LEED," Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of USGBC, said in a statement. "Demand for green building will only continue to grow as individuals, businesses and institutions continue to prioritize sustainable approaches to the design, construction and operations of our built environment."
3. Lower operating costs
In the U.S., the average monthly energy bill for companies is nearly $650, according to the Energy Information Administration. While that doesn't seem like much compared to some states' costs of more than $1,000, these expenses could be much lower, especially since National Grid reported that energy takes up 19 percent of a business's expenses.
Green buildings, especially LEED-certified ones, use energy-saving methods to ensure structures are as efficient as possible. When combined with eco-friendly practices, these construction processes could significantly reduce energy bills. According to the USGBC, LEED buildings could save more than $1 billion in energy and $715 million in maintenance costs.
4. Stronger economy
In the past few years, the U.S. economy has been on the rise. The unemployment rate has dropped and the country's revenue has increased. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the gross domestic product rose 3.7 percent in the second quarter of 2015 and the current-account deficit decreased $8.6 billion.
Green construction will continue to contribute to the economy by adding billions of dollars to the GDP. By 2018, LEED will have added nearly $30 billion to the country and add more than $26 billion to employees' wages. As these projects increase, the savings from them will continue to be seen.
"Our research shows that green building has created millions of jobs and contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy, with the construction of LEED-certified buildings accounting for about 40 percent of green construction's overall contribution to GDP in 2015," David Erne, senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, explained. "This industry is certainly on the rise, and aggressive growth in the green building sector is anticipated over the next four years."
While there are countless environmental benefits to green construction, there are just as many economic advantages. By switching to environmentally friendly practices, businesses can reduce their expenses, create jobs and boost the economy.