Friday, September 09, 2005

'Green' Sounds Great -- But Is It Affordable?

Neal Peirce:

But -- are green buildings economic enough to build? The popular notion has been "no"- By contrast, Charles Lockwood, architectural critic and author, recently e-mailed me: "The 'green is too expensive' myth is no longer true."

One is the Toyota Motor Sales campus near Los Angeles, a 624,000-square- foot facility that was built with costs competitive with other Southern California office parks. It's received a gold LEED rating. Solar power meets 20 percent of the building's energy needs. Building materials are 50 percent recycled, nearly all employees work under natural daylight, and the site is equipped with low-maintenance landscaping, including drought-tolerant native plants irrigated with recycled water.

And that's no exception, asserts Dan Heinfeld, president of LPA Inc., second largest architectural firm in California and designer of the Toyota project. Whether new buildings or renovations, he asserts, "projects can be sustainable and constructed on standard, cost-efficient budgets." His firm, Heinfeld asserts, has "designed literally dozens" of such buildings in California.

The California State and Consumer Services Agency, in a study of 33 green buildings, concluded that their construction costs are slightly more expensive -- $3 to $5 a square foot, or 2 percent -- than conventional structures.

But a big difference emerged when the agency factored in reduced costs for energy, water and waste-disposal, plus enhanced employee health and productivity. The estimate: $50 to $75 per square foot savings over the average 20-year life of a building -- more than 10 times the 2 percent cost premium for green buildings.


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