Higher costs were once a major stumbling block to greener and more sustainable building, but as the prices of green technologies continue to fall and professional expertise in the industry improves, the business case for green buildings is stronger than ever.
Building green now costs only around 3.9% more than conventional construction – and with the right approach and careful planning, that figure can be as low as just 1.1%. What’s more, when you look beyond the upfront expenses in materials and labour, it becomes clear that green construction is the smart, cost-effective option.
COUNTING THE COSTS
Unlike their conventional cousins, green buildings deliver savings throughout their lifespans – surveys show that operating them can be up to 37% cheaper. The energy and water benefits alone are usually enough to balance out the marginally higher cost of construction in just five years.
Thanks to superior insulation, smarter heating and cooling systems, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, the use of renewable energy sources like solar panels, and many other innovations, green buildings are on average 25% to 30% more efficient when it comes to energy consumption. That’s great for private homes … and even better for the commercial office, where energy consumption accounts for around 30% of operating costs.
Thanks to features like grey water systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures, rainwater capture and smart garden irrigation, green design allows for superior water efficiency, too.
GREEN MARKET VALUE
Green buildings are more comfortable, healthy and safe to live and work in – so it’s little wonder that they command higher rentals and sale prices. In countries like Australia and the United States, green buildings receive valuations that are over 10% higher than comparable, traditionally built properties, and they’re also less likely to stand vacant for extended periods of time. Similar trends are beginning to emerge here in South Africa, too.
In the commercial sector, local office buildings that boast a green certification are more valuable per square metre (up to 34% more), show higher increases in value over time and generate more income and profits. (Read more about South Africa’s green building certification systems here).
DELAY AND PAY
Smart, sustainable construction is the way of the future. Worldwide and in South Africa, consumer demand is growing, and so is the global market for green materials. As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, these trends will only intensify, with people increasingly seeking out buildings that promote human and planetary health. The costs of getting left behind in this green transition will be high. As market demands shift and regulations change, buildings that don’t comply with sustainable standards will become undesirable, expensive to run, and harder to lease and sell. When it comes to green construction, it makes financial sense to take the lead.
THE GREEN WORKPLACE
Research increasingly shows the financial benefits of green design in the workplace. Because green office buildings and other workspaces are constructed with the wellbeing of their occupants in mind (read more about the health benefits of green buildings here), they help to keep employees healthier – and that translates to improved productivity, innovation and job satisfaction. It also means the costs of absenteeism are lower, employers can attract and retain top talent, and businesses gain a competitive edge.