Confirmations from reliable sources such as the United Nations report that global warming is due to human activity and not to the natural cyclical process as it has occurred in the past, bringing forth the urgency to move into action. During the G-8 Nations Conference in July 2008, all of the countries involved agreed upon cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. During the conference, Regine Günther, Director of the WWF Climate Change Programme in
In this country alone, our buildings are responsible for 48% of the energy consumption. There is an ongoing preoccupation with the issue of sustainability combined with a sense of complacency. How do we move into action and out of resignation or cynicism? This concern is shared by many, and the question posed is how to do something without having to spend much more for a green alternative. How do we implement sustainable practices that will allow for a return on investment (ROI) and use it as an opportunity for business as affirmed by Ms. Günther?
The Journal of Property Management stated in an article from March/April 2004 that "investments in green buildings pay for themselves 10 times over." The study was performed on 100 green buildings, and it was found that the financial benefits of green design are between $50 and $70 per square foot in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building, more than 10 times the additional cost associated with building green. In some states, utility
companies provide rebate money to offset initial investment costs, making it easier to implement green alternatives.
Turner Construction Company announced a few years ago the findings of its survey of 719 building owners, developers, architects, engineers and consultants on green building issues. The significance of the research was that when asked to compare a list of benefits generated by green buildings with those generated by non-green buildings, a significant percentage of executives said that green buildings outperform non-green buildings in the following categories:
Some studies have been made confirming that implementing efficient alternatives will reduce energy and consumption and can realistically bring a positive outcome in your bottom line. For example, the new building for Adobe Headquarters in
Larry Laque, an executive for Discovery Communications, Inc. (Discovery Channel), in the process of renovating one of its buildings, pointed to several changes the company had made. Green-handled, low-flush toilets were installed in every restroom. Three 400-gallon tanks in the garage store rainwater to irrigate the company's lawn. Additionally, numerous unnecessary light bulbs, such as vending machine lights, had been removed. "I do believe it is a lot of little things that add up," Laque states. "We are a big part of the problem, but we are also a big part of the solution."
Sometimes simple and ingenuous solutions can generate great benefits. A large facility in
Solutions in the realm of global warming are being researched across the board in most of the industries. In an article posted by Barry Sanel from Barry Sanel Packaging Advisors, about the Packaging Summit in
So, even if we can't do anything about our work environment, we might be able to contribute to our personal ROI. Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek gives us two very simple choices:
1) Save $250 per year simply with smart landscaping. Strategically planting trees and shrubs to shade your home can lower surrounding air temperatures during warm summer months by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit and can reduce wall and roof temperatures by 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing energy costs for cooling and home carbon emissions by 3,952 pounds per year.
2) Save $798 a year when you perform regular maintenance on your car to keep it running efficiently. Properly inflated tires, for example, can keep 5,800 pounds of carbon from entering the air each year.
Maybe we have a misperception about the initial costs of green buildings. Perhaps what is necessary is creativity and ingenuity to address the problems we have ahead of us. Most of us are not experienced in this area and, because of that, we tend to discard the uncertainty of the unknown by the security of what we already know. My experience is that many executives and managers believe that upfront costs are higher when working with green buildings and that ROI is farther into the future, and energy and natural resource savings are lower. As the Turner Construction Company study previously mentioned discovered, many underestimate the human reactions and the benefits to this project productivity enhancements, higher occupancy rates and asking rents and increased return on your investment.
Vera Angelico, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is a licensed architect in