Interest in constructing green buildings or retrofitting existing buildings with eco-friendly features has grown as along with concerns about climate change. Though much of the push toward sustainable structures is motivated by a desire to protect the environment, there are also other factors that may make running green facilities appealing for the commercial, educational and residential sectors.
Overview of sustainable building benefits
Recognizing the potential of green buildings, fiscal and otherwise, has drawn many enterprises and institutions into the eco-friendly fold. Government programs, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project, provide extra incentives for making facilities more sustainable.
In addition to the monetary savings that may be provided by constructing energy efficient facilities and installing resource-saving features, the USGBC offers official certifications that provide companies and schools with public recognition for their efforts.
LEED certification may yield fiscal rewards not only indirectly by fueling a positive public image, but also by earning preferred rates from property insurers, according to an Environmental Leader blog post. Insurance companies have already begun to offer special premiums for residential and commercial customers that own structures that are LEED-certified.
These monetary incentives are in part fuelled by the increased resiliency of green buildings. These structures are often built with sustainable materials that are more durable than conventional alternatives. For example, exceptionally fire-resistance and sturdy materials, such as steel and aluminum, are used in LEED-certified roofs for their energy-efficient, reflective properties.
Sustainable structures are also more resistant to storm damage thanks to their improved insulation, which is implemented to help maintain temperatures and reduce related power costs. This enhanced protection mitigates the negative effects that water and wind can have on a building during a storm.
The combination of these advantages makes green structures more durable overall, promising decreased insurance risks and costs in addition to improved structural integrity and energy savings.
The trend in green buildings
Research published in McGraw-Hill Construction's 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook report shows that the value of sustainable structures has increased in recent years and suggests that it will grow even more in the future, according to a news release.The study found that the green building sector was worth $10 billion in 2005, rising to $78 billion in 2011. Moreover, the authors estimate that the value of green building will reach between $204 billion and $248 billion by 2016.
"We're seeing tremendous growth in green building, providing a bright light in an otherwise uncertain economy," said Harvey M. Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw-Hill Construction. "Not only does this mean a strong outlook for green building, but also the benefits that go along with that: more jobs, greater financial benefits from green and high performance buildings, stronger competitive positioning for those firms that build green, and healthier work and learning environments for our population."
The authors of the study wrote that 47 percent of senior executive officers anticipate greening two-thirds of the structures in their portfolios by 2015, while 30 percent reported that they already have. Additionally, the research showed that 81 percent of corporate executive leaders think there is a public expectation for businesses to practice sustainability, prompting many enterprises to standardize green practices.
The growth in green buildings projected by McGraw-Hill is largely due to the financial rewards that these structures can afford enterprises. These advantages are themselves fuelled by the manifold benefits of sustainable facilities, from stronger structural durability to energy savings.
Moreover, building green structures may lead to improved public perception, increased investments and the interest of news organizations seeking to promote sustainability. In turn, companies that have green buildings may become trend-setters for their industry.