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What Are the Benefits of Green Building?

3 min read
What Are the Benefits of Green Building?

GE Appliances & Lighting recently opened a new data center at its Kentucky headquarters, equipped with innovative high-efficiency cooling systems. It also utilizes high-density servers containing more computing power per square foot, thus, reducing the amount of energy the center needs for cooling. The company has even installed water saving fixtures to reduce water consumption in the building by 42%.

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, last year announced its intention to meet most its water heating needs by relying on 378 solar panels, which will heat 140,000 liters of water every day. According to its management, the sustainable investment is expected to save 3,200 kWh of energy per day, accumulating to 690MWh of energy savings annually.

Hervey Bay’s Riviera Resort broke a solar panel record in Queensland this month by installing more solar panels on its six-story building than any other construction in the Australian state. The owner of the resort claims that he has enjoyed $16,000 in energy savings – a reasonable return on his sustainable investments.

Businesses aren’t the only ones taking advantage of eco-friendly tweaks and innovations. ZeroCottage in San Francisco, a net-zero energy project-under-construction by David Baker and Partners Architecture, is employing the benefits of high-performance windows, air-tight folding doors and wall assembly, rainwater reclamation and efficient water heating. Kelly and Matt Grocoff, a Michigan couple, reconstructed their 1901 2200 sq. ft. Victorian-style home and turned it into a net-zero sustainable investment. It cost the family a total of $47,130, with an expected return of $104,000 over 20 years.

According to calculations by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), buildings in most countries take up at least 40 per cent of national energy use. In the European Union, the construction industry eats up 42 per cent of the EU’s final energy consumption and accounts for about 35 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), estimates the European Commission. In an economy where companies and homes are cutting costs across the board, energy is one of the first areas to feel the slash. Governments are taking this trend into account and are encouraging energy-saving sustainable investments through incentive tools such as tax breaks and feed-in tariffs.

2010 Deutche Bank Research figures indicate that green buildings enjoy energy savings of about 30% more than conventional buildings. Sustainable buildings generally tend to use less water and are cheaper to maintain. McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2011 report values the growth of U.S. green building construction at 50 per cent from 2008 to 2010. Green buildings represent 25% of all new construction in 2010 and, according to McGraw-Hillprojections, the market size will likely rise to about $135 billion by 2015. The UK will likely see increases in the sector as well as the government has set up the goal to increase energy reductions in the country and to achieve carbon neutrality in all new English homes by 2016, per WBCSD.

Before embarking on greening the office or home space and reaping the benefits of energy cost cutting, government incentives and more affordable building maintenance, investors need to thoroughly educate themselves on their nation’s industry standards and regulations. As the sustainable constructions investments market picks up speed, it brings with it the persisting need for quality assurance.

There are several third-party entities that set up standards and certify buildings constructed under sustainable investments initiatives. In the U.S., the leading green building certification system is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed LEED in 2000, to provide housing and commercial building owners and operators with a set of measurable criteria that evaluate the building’s practicality, design, effectiveness and management efficacy.In the European Union, and UK in particular, the widely used regulatory system is BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). Established in 1990 by the UK Building Research Establishment (BRE), BREEAM had the purpose of evaluating the sustainability of new commercial buildings. It has since expanded to also include residential buildings under its umbrella. In 2003, the Green Building Council of Australia launched Green Star – a rating system to quantify the environmental effects of constructions as well as the improvements brought about by innovations in the building sector.

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