New studies show that sustainable buildings offer the best of both worlds – environmental preservation and significant return on investment. The industry is now evaluating which investments and initiatives produce the most value for investors – meanwhile carbon dioxide emissions and energy demands continue to be reduced. Increasingly, emphasis is placed on improving indoor air quality as well.
LEED buildings reduced CO2 emissions across the board
According to a study by the Center for Resource Efficient Communities at the University of California, Berkeley, certified commercial green buildings were responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from water consumption by 50 percent, reported Environmental Leader. Additionally, solid waste management emissions were reduced by 48 percent and transportation emissions decreased by 5 percent. The study involved the evaluation of over 100 commercial buildings throughout California operating with LEED certification.
While studies of LEED buildings typically focus on energy consumption, which was also reduced considerably, this particular study focused on climate-related improvements. With much recent press covering the United States and China climate accords, as well as increasing attention to atmospheric CO2 levels, the focus of the study was not only warranted, but timely.
Sustainable buildings have a positive impact on the bottom line
In a white paper sponsored by UL, a global safety science leader, Chief Economist Erin Grossi discussed the how the transition to sustainability in buildings is improving performance and positively impacting bottom lines. Grossi pointed to innovations in energy consumption, indoor air quality and water usage.
"Like many industries in the recovering global economy, the building industry is being forced to take a good look at what investments and practices are actually driving real and lasting value for investors, owners and tenants," said Grossi.
The financial incentives may sway more to go green
Grossi explained that savings stemming from improved energy and water usage, combined with the health and productivity benefits that occupants of green buildings enjoy, will be the most valuable formula for property investors and owners. Additionally, the added incentive of assets not needing continual maintenance and protection over the long-term will allow companies and individuals to focus on sustainable initiatives.
It is noteworthy to mention that an industry expert told Environmental Leader, in addition to reduced emissions and lowered energy demands, green buildings offer significant cost savings that come from rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives.
The importance of air quality and the effect on productivity levels
Grossi wanted readers to pay particular attention to how, from a financial perspective, improving employee productivity can be done at low cost, by addressing an issue like air quality.
"Recent technology advancements in sensors, dashboards and integrated IP networks make the realization of energy and water savings and improved indoor air quality more financially viable and traceable. Access to more information about how efficiently buildings are being run can significantly reduce costs and slash consumption of resources for building owners," Grossi added.
The global safety economist also stressed how important indoor air quality is, especially considering the growing number of chemicals in furniture, construction materials and cleaning supplies. Allowing employees to breathe clean air, Grossi argued, would pay off more than anything. However, increased employee productivity in a business that enjoys considerable cost-savings from sustainable initiatives would be the ideal situation.
As previously stated, green buildings offer the best of both worlds – cost savings and commitment to environmentalism. The fact that employee productivity will be improved is just icing on the cake. A positive first step for any company looking to improve its social responsibility profile should be to improve air quality. Green cleaning supplies and smart sensors can help accomplish this, but there is so much else to consider too.