Report Review – The Business Case for Green Building

By: Angelina Howard, IBE Student Intern

The Business Case for Green Building: A Review of Cost and Benefits for Developers, Investors, and Occupants from the World Green Building Council is now available. The report provides detailed information and case studies on Design and Construction Costs, Asset Value, Operating Costs, Workplace Productivity and Health, and Risk Mitigation. The following is a brief summary of  some of the key topics in the report.

Design and Construction Cost

According to research, green buildings do not cost more than conventional buildings that are built to code. Program management, environment and cost strategies help make building green cost effective, and increased upfront costs in green buildings are often offset by a decrease in long-term life cycle cost. Based on findings from various research studies, actual design and construction cost premium of green buildings have been documented to range from -.4% to 12.5%.  These studies included buildings from the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, and Israel for projects completed in 2000-2012.

The Perception Gap, The Business Case for Green
Building © 2013, pg. 26

There is a major perception gap but when it comes to design and construction cost. 

Some people believe that building green increases design and construction cost by approximately 10-20% (with some estimates as high as 29%) compared to the cost of conventional code-compliant buildings. However, design teams are challenged to deliver green buildings with conventional budgets. Figure 1 illustrates this perception gap.

Asset Value

The Asset Value for green buildings is increasing. Green buildings have begun to attract tenants and command higher rents and sale prices and investors and occupants are becoming more knowledgeable regarding the environmental and social impacts of the built environment. A lot of this is due to a building’s asset value. A building’s asset value has different meanings for the various stakeholders. Figure 2 illustrates stakeholder perceptions that affect the value of the buildings.
Based on information gathered from studies conducted over the past decade, primarily on LEED certified office buildings in the US, green buildings tend to have higher asset values than conventional code-compliant buildings, which have led to higher sale prices. The benefits of this are higher rental/lease rates, lower operating expenses, higher occupancy rates, and lower yields. Sub-market price premiums were found to be in the range of 0-30% when comparing certified green buildings to non-certified green buildings. Evidence also shows that higher levels of LEED certification also achieve higher sales premiums.

Operating Cost

Documenting annual energy savings is fundamental to building green. It is estimated that energy savings from code-compliant buildings range from 25% – 30% in U.S. LEED certified buildings to 35% – 50% in New Zealand green buildings. See Figure 3 for energy savings of 2003 LEED certified buildings.
There are energy savings from green building retrofits, improved maintenance standards, and refurbishment. Energy savings for green building retrofits are not as high as those for new builds, but they are still substantial. As energy prices continue to grow, benefits of energy efficiency will become important, strengthening the business case for energy efficiency retrofits. When it comes to maintenance, there can be a significant decrease in maintenance requirements and replacements if sustainable building systems are used. With refurbishment, green buildings provide adaptability, insuring that the building will be a valuable asset presently and in the future.
Even with these best practices in energy efficient design, there are still challenges that can prevent a green building from performing as expected. However, these are most often resolved through building commissioning, leadership committed to green building management practices, effective and transparent communication of successes and lessons learned, and tenant awareness programs.

Workplace Productivity and Health

Productivity & Health Benefits,The Business Case for
Green Building  © 2013, pg. 67
According to the report, healthy work environments are a prominent agenda item for the building industry. Green buildings positively impact the employees working inside of them. Employees productivity and health are improved due to the healthy indoor environments that green buildings provide. Healthy indoor environments include high levels of natural daylighting, appropriate levels and types of artificial light, use of materials with minimal toxins, appropriate outdoor air ventilation, thermal comfort and open and inviting spaces that increase interaction and physical movement. The improved ventilation has helped reduce the cases of “Sick Building Syndrome.” Healthy indoor environments have also reduced stress in the workplace. A 1998 study, cited by Heerwagen, states that stress and frustration levels declined and patience increased when employees had views of nature through windows. Those with a window view are typically less stressed than those constantly viewing a screen or working in a viewless room.
Please check out the full report here and the Executive Summary here.

Study by Institute for the Built Environment Reveals Cost Effectiveness, Energy Efficiency, and Positive Human Impact of Green Schools

A report released today by the Institute for the Built Environment details a research study conducted on a national sample of 12 green schools and illustrates the positive impacts of green school design.  The schools participating in the study were designed with sustainability in mind, but had not been evaluated for the design effectiveness or the long-term impact on operations.  Cost and utility data were collected for each sample school and compared to national and regional benchmarks.  In addition, teachers and maintenance staff at each school were questioned to identify common perceptions and observations.  Key results included:

  • Responses to the occupant survey indicate that green school facilities have a positive impact on occupants. Respondents were enthusiastic about their green school with the majority perceiving positive effects on student health, achievement, and behavior.
  • Cost analysis rebuts the common perception that higher design and construction costs must be incurred to build green schools. The majority of green schools in the sample were built below the regional median cost for schools built in the same year.
  • In energy performance, the sample operated above the ENERGY STAR national median, with a sample mean score of 81. A rating of 81 indicates that a building is operating in the top 19th percentile, or better than 81% of similar buildings nationwide. In addition, eight of the schools met or exceeded the Architecture 2030 Challenge 2012 targets for Energy Use Intensity (EUI).
  • Finally, through interviews with facility managers, we confirmed that the buildings’ efficiency is also illustrated through perceived efficiencies in the daily operation and maintenance of the facilities.
The study was commissioned by DLR Group, an integrated design firm with offices across the United States.  This study was pursued in order to evaluate high performance building metrics and to measure the effectiveness of design. The execution of this study is part of a firm-wide effort to evaluate and advance the performance of their designs.

Institute for the Built Environment received $50,000 grant

By: Dell Rae Moellenberg

The General Services Administration has selected Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment as a partner in a collaborative research effort to further develop its Knowledge Network.

Through the $50,000 grant, IBE will identify and summarize published, peer-reviewed, field-tested original research related to high performance building technologies and practices for operations, building, energy and asset management in the federal government and private sectors. The summary information will create an educational foundation to help building operators and users optimize facility efficiencies.

The General Services Administration’s hopes the project will provide education and increase adoption of proven high performance green building technologies and strategies and best practices. Target audiences include facility, energy and project managers, and procurement and budget personnel.

“We are honored to be selected by GSA to perform this important sustainable operations work. All of us in the green building world are searching for methods to assure that our green buildings continue to operate sustainably long after they are built,” said Brian Dunbar, executive director of the IBE.

Knowledge Network focuses on education

The Knowledge Network establishes a multi-channel education and communication platform about energy research. This platform will disseminate information about best practices, guidelines, standards, decision tools and educational content focused on sustainable and cost-effective facility to targeted audiences within GSA, and federal and private sectors.

The Institute for the Built Environment, a research center based in the College of Applied Human Sciences since 1994, has a mission to foster built and natural environment stewardship and sustainability through an interdisciplinary, research-based educational forums. IBE brings together faculty, students and off-campus professionals to collaborate on applied green building, sustainable development and organizational sustainability projects.

*This article was originally published in Today at Colorado State

IBE provides research support to eVolo magazine on the development of a published book entitled [ours] Hyper-Localization of Sustainable Architecture

About the Book: A Peek Inside [ours]

Contemporary design archetypes of the 21st century are “redefining the regions they [are] built in”, as noted by Andrew Michler, author of [ours] Hyper-Localization of Sustainable Architecture. A collaboration effort with eVolo and the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University are working to uncover the new architectural archetypes that are emerging in a new movement of sustainable architecture. Michler defined these movements as [Japan Condenses], [Spain Wraps], [Australia Unfolds], [Germany Maintains], [Mexico Buries], and [Cascadia Harvests], among others, each one describing the hyper-localization of architecturally sustainable design trends around the world.
The publication will feature in-depth narratives, interviews, and large format project photos and descriptions.
  • Art book quality with ground breaking architecture design theory
  • Approximate pages: 250
  • Large full color photography of selected buildings
  • Four regional chapters narratives
  • Projects descriptions
  • Project drawing index with floor plans, elevations and diagrams

[ours] disseminates how the best architecture comes together to create regional identity in the 21st century. Site specific design is a core reality in developing robust, thriving communities and exploring the shared nature of the built and natural world through environmentally attuned development.

Regions are already responding to the challenge through inventive and provocative architecture. [Japan Condenses], [Spain Wraps], and [Australia Unfolds] explores how design practices inform a sense of place and provide solutions to complex issues in the built environment. These three divergent areas exemplify the quality of redefined design vernacular that addresses deep sustainable objectives.
Other regions from around the world will be explored as well including [Denmark Plays], [Germany Maintains], [Mexico Buries], [Cascadia Grows], South Africa and Central America. The germ of the idea is to explore sustainable design by putting these buildings into context. All buildings by their very nature are hyperlocal, that fact was often simply ignored for too long. We see the re-imagining of the built environment as one of the most important goals in thriving in an altered planet in the 21st century. By pushing the envelope these selected projects create new architectural archetypes, integrating function and form to improve performance. We will explore how architects have learned from their failures and from taking risks.
Rather than put great cutting edge building projects in isolation we want to look both inward at how they work and came to be, and outward at how environmentally astute architecture is informed by and can redefine the society they are placed in.
The IBE is heading the development of the Place Assessment Tool or PAT, an integrated design attributes system used for the book’s project selection. PAT promises to help design professional visually prioritize place making needs and environmental attributes in design phase of project development.
Some readers may just enjoy the sheer beauty in the novel designs, while others may take the knowledge and apply it to their region.
The Kickstarter Campaign
The Kickstarter Campaign will be raising funds for research interns at the IBE, traveling expenses, and recording and camera equipment that will be used to record interviews with the architects. By visiting hyper-localized sustainable architecture first hand, a true understanding of the projects will emerge as Michler will gain success and improvement stories from the architects themselves. By supporting this extraordinary publication, you will be presented with a selection of rewards, including a complete signed copy of [ours], eVolo’s latest magazine issue, a set of parametric zenblocks custom-made with reclaimed birch and non-VOC paint, or the digitally formatted [Japan Condenses].   

DLR Group Green School Research Study Awarded

IBE has partnered with DLR Group to research the cost effectiveness, performance, and human impact of green schools designs. DLR Group is a design firm that provides architectural, engineering, planning, and interior design expertise to clients in the United States and abroad. Their focus is in corporate (mixed-use, hospitality, and workplace), higher education, K-12 education, justice (courts, civic spaces, and detention), and sports design. IBE staff will analyze a variety of schools in different climates to gain a better understanding of how the schools are performing and the impact they have on the occupants. The analysis of these 14 schools will seek to answer the question: Are DLR Group green schools cost-effective, high-performing, and positively impacting students?

Studying the costs and benefits of green schools is exciting as it will help better justify the use of green building practices in future school construction. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected in order to determine if correlations exist between the attributes of green school and absenteeism, performance, and costs. Identifying these correlations is crucial to the advancement of green school buildings. Decision makers and community members in school districts across the county need studies like this to inform their decisions concerning future school construction. It is the hope of DLR Group and IBE that this research will offer insight and direction in order to further the advancement of efficient and healthy learning environments. (Photo: Marysville (Wash.) Getchell Campus credit of DLR Group)


Call for Applicants!

Student Team Member, 
R2P2 (Research to Practice Program) Team

The Institute for the Built Environment has been selected by the U.S. Green Building Council to pilot a national initiative to develop educational products from green building case studies.  The goal of these “teaching case studies” is to illustrate general green building principles, to illustrate the application of specific green strategies, and to give learners the tools to apply principles and strategies in their own unique situations.  The R2P2 team will work together to develop issue-based stories based on case study data, guided analysis for learners, and teaching notes for instructors.

Position Description

IBE staff and a small, diverse group of graduate students will form the R2P2 Team.  A student is desired from the programs of Construction Management, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Business Management, Technical Journalism, and Education with interests in green building, sustainable schools, teaching, and/or curriculum development.

The diverse Student Team Member experience will closely resemble a graduate level course.  Each student will design and develop an educational product, guided by team leaders.  Students will be required to attend weekly team meetings and periodic individual meetings with team leaders.  A strong sense of self direction, motivation, and innovation is required. Skills in design, video, communication and web are a plus.

This single semester experience will end with the completion of example educational products in early December.  The student created projects will be compiled into a publication for dissemination to teachers and professionals across the nation. Total expected time commitment is estimated at 45-55 hours. Course credit may be pursued through an independent study if desired.  Stipends of $500 will be granted to students upon project completion.

If you are interested, please send a resume and letter of interest to Stephanie Barr, , and copy Brian Dunbar,  Applications due by August 26th.

LENSES Named Global Challenges Research Team By School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University has named the 2011-2012 awards for Global Challenges Research Teams, or GCRTs, and Resident Faculty Fellows. In a move to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of complex global environmental issues, the school selected six diverse GCRTs and five Fellows from a wide range of proposals submitted this spring.
The School of Global Environmental Sustainability, or SoGES, funds research projects that are interdisciplinary in nature, involving faculty members and researchers from across colleges. These projects focus on at least two of the school’s research focal areas including climate change and energy; food security; environmental institutions and governance; land and water resources; sustainable communities; and biodiversity, conservation and management.
LENSES Research Team – Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems, Principal Investigators – Brian Dunbar and Lenora Bohren, both with the Institute for the Built Environment. LENSES is designed to lead teams through planning, designing and implementing transformative change to address pressing environmental, social and economic issues stemming from the built environment. 
For the full article visit: