In green building, the “triple bottom line” is regularly emphasized due to positive impacts on a project’s systems and operations. The triple bottom line considers the measurable effects on building sustainability, overall planetary health, and return on investment (ROI). Most importantly for developers, project and operational costs can be mitigated by focusing on creative and practical solutions. There are four primary considerations which can be taken into account by developers when developing green building strategies:
Measurable Impacts Green Buildings have on the Triple Bottom Line
1. Thoughtful energy design and energy modeling often reduce construction hard costs. Enhanced energy modeling can save projects anywhere from $90k to $1.5 million depending on size and scale. The savings more than pay for the fee to run the analysis. Early design coordination in design development can remove coordination delays later in the construction documentation phase. Having early discussions with the design team and running an early performance model have been proven to remove blind spots and help teams identify the most cost effective systems.
Recently, the American Institute of Architects adopted the 2030 Commitment, which encourages the incorporation of energy modeling in an industry-wide drive to more easily work towards green building standards. The 2030 Commitment is one of many other regional and international initiatives aimed at reducing wasteful expenses throughout the lifetime of a project while at the same time prioritizing a measurable methodology which simplifies the cost-benefit analysis of energy use. Green building practices utilize energy modeling to help developers stay ahead of the curve and save money.
2. A $5,000 per month reduction in common area energy costs is the equivalent of renting two additional apartment units year over year. Increasing energy efficiency through operations helps improve building asset values and helps to reduce the need for consumption of fossil fuels. By adopting techniques which prioritize energy efficiency, buildings become less dependent on the grid and, by extension, reduce overall carbon emissions. This can be modeled and quantified through green building practices such as Life Cycle Assessment  or Energy Assessments, which can help building owners meet corporate social responsibility goals and help meet budget targets. It is anticipated that such targets will become more and more common globally, so by understanding the operational energy efficiency through green building practices, developers can rest assured that they will stay ahead of the curve with regards to budget pressures and regulatory trends.
3. Improving building comfort can increase inhabitant satisfaction and overall wellbeing. Incorporating HVAC systems which encourage adequate ventilation and insulation reduces the introduction of toxins and retains fresh air quality for building occupants. Green building practices also limit moisture exposure and emittance of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contribute to negative health effects. Adequate daylighting in green buildings can also increase human performance, making green buildings more attractive for tenants and developers interested in maximizing the efficiencies of schools and workplaces. Measurable inhabitant wellbeing metrics such as the amount of daylighting and improved indoor air quality provide an indicator of overall physical health of building occupants, which in turn leads to better mental health . The feedback loop between occupant satisfaction and green building design indicates results for both the operator (by increasing productivity) and the occupant (by making a space more conducive to health).
4. Green building enhances marketability potential. By having these measurable benefits, appealing to building tenants makes the operator/developer more competitive in a crowded real estate market. The capacity to present tenants with a body of information otherwise absent from non-green buildings increases the potential to reach more tenants and make more sound appeals to the efficacy and reliability of a project. Further, funding programs such as Fannie Mae lower interest rates if a building has a green building designation like LEED, GreenPoint Rated or NGBS . Not only can developers appeal to higher bidders, but they could also reduce expenses by enrolling in such programs.
The perceptible benefits of green building can be seen in cost reduction, increased health, and keeping pollutants low. This ultimately increases durability and contributes to a greater ROI in the long run. Green building is here to stay, and as more projects achieve green building certifications, developers will become competitive in a marketplace that has the capacity to prioritize cost, health, and overall impacts simultaneously.
VCA Green is highly equipped with a specialized team of personnel ready to assist in your green building efforts. For more information on how to maximize the benefits of your project while promoting a healthier environment, contact Moe Fakih below.
Contributing Writer: Daryl Dingman, LEED AP Homes
Moe Fakih, Principal