The Advantages of a Green Building

There’s no question that green commercial building is grabbing its share of headlines these days. Major corporations such as Toyota, Goldman Sachs, and BP have built and moved into environmentally responsible buildings, citing energy savings, healthier indoor environments, and smaller carbon footprints. Many ask – is green really better? Should green buildings be given a higher rating when considering competing lease or purchase proposals?
There are several reasons why green is better. But first you need to understand how expenses are created in commercial properties or professional office buildings. The normal and customary procedure in a lease agreement is for the landlord to cover the operating expenses, which may include utilities, janitorial services, real estate taxes and other common expenses. But there is a qualifier—it’s typically only for the first year. In subsequent years, as utility, water and other costs increase, the landlord bills those increased costs back to the tenants, pro-rated based on their percentage of leased building square footage. We’ve seen tenants billed as much as 10-15% of their total rent in what is referred to as “pass-throughs”—an additional expense due to operating costs.
So reason number one to “go green” is lower operating costs. A “green” building will generally have lower operating costs (approximately 13.6% lower than similar non-green buildings, according to McGraw-Hill Construction). Efficient use of energy and water and proper waste management lower the operating costs of the overall building, and the savings are passed on to the tenants.
What makes a building green? A building’s green features may include the use of recycled and regional construction materials; the recycling of more than 75 percent of construction debris; preferred parking spaces reserved for low-emitting vehicles; and design and construction guidelines to help tenants with green build-outs. Carpet, adhesives, and paint are made from low volatile organic compounds, and daylight is usually available to 75 percent of the space. Green buildings save million gallons of water a year by using water-saving plumbing fixtures and cooling systems that can reuse water and then irrigate the outside landscaping through its runoff.
Green buildings heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, are often “hospital quality,” running 85 percent to 90 percent clean air, whereas most office buildings run at 35 percent. High performance buildings can improve employee health and well being, leading to lower health care costs. Better interior lighting is another hallmark of green buildings. Often referred to as “natural light harvesting,” the balance of interior wall placement, windows and full-spectrum lighting systems create more efficient and comfortable environments.
All this adds up to reason number two to “go green”: employee productivity. Yes, it’s true—people working in green buildings are healthier, happier, and more productive. In a recent DOE study, it was shown that worker productivity in a green building increased by 15 percent. In another study by The Rocky Mountain Institute, air quality improvements fostered increased productivity of up to 20% and reduced absenteeism by up to 25%. Imagine if you could increase the power of your workforce by 15 to 20 percent—without hiring additional staff!
While improved productivity can bolster a company’s bottom, tenants are still concerned that going green costs more. Should it? At one time the lack of green construction materials drove up prices. Not so anymore. There is a plethora of competitively-priced green building materials on the market, from paint and carpet to HVAC systems. So the answer is no, the construction costs of a typical green building should not impact the rental cost.
And lastly, the third reason to go green—it enhances your company’s brand and reputation. Companies are seeing an increasing number of customer requests for information about sustainability efforts. A buyer for over 60,000 suppliers, Walmart is a visible example of this trend.

More on Green Architecture in Idaho

Visit the U.S. Green Building Council Idaho Chapter for more information.

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