With natural capital (water, mineral, soils, and the like) depleting rapidly, and the availability of future nonrenewable energy very much up in the air (no pun intended), the need to include sustainable facilities design in your overall green business plan has never been stronger. Consider these facts:
The life cycle of a building (construction, operation, renovation, and deconstruction) is responsible for 45 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions - believe it or not, that's more than automobiles!
Buildings use around 15 percent of the annual global water supply.
Construction waste makes up 40 percent of landfill space, and a quarter of the globe's virgin wood goes to fuel the world's construction industry.
A shocking 60 percent of the United States' electricity consumption occurs in commercial buildings.
On the present-day end of the spectrum, productivity and performance studies show an increase in employee output and satisfaction among individuals who work in a sustainable facility. Additionally, a green building (depending on its particular features) yields immediate reductions in operating costs through savings in water, energy, and waste disposal bills. Green buildings retain their asset value much more than their inefficient counterparts do.
Furthermore, depending on location, structure, and other variables, green buildings can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient, on average, than traditional buildings. If your current utility charges are 8 cents per kilowatt hour, simply reducing energy consumption by 30 percent knocks your costs down to 30 cents per square foot per year.
The Advantages of Green Buildings
An excellent return on your investment: Depending on your building's original costs, utility infrastructure, and location, the payback period (how long it takes you to recoup your additional investment with the dollars you've saved through ownership and maintenance costs) required to retrofit old buildings or construct new ones can run from one to seven years. After the payback period, you can enjoy some green gravy!
Enhanced employee health, happiness, and productivity: Because green buildings employ natural daylighting, employee morale is improved and absenteeism is reduced. Additionally, the increased indoor air quality found in green buildings and the decreased eye strain associated with natural lighting contribute dramatically to enhanced employee productivity. Extracting data on the correlation between employee health and sustainable buildings is difficult, but literally hundreds of articles and reports have found a lower rate of illness (particularly fewer cases of respiratory sickness, allergies, and asthma) in green buildings.
An opportunity to certify your green efforts and garner recognition from environmental leaders: If you want to get some free publicity and credit for your company's sustainable facility, and show your stakeholders that your company practices what it preaches, acquiring official green-building certification is invaluable.
Not only can individual components of your green building be certified as sustainable (wood, adhesives, wall coverings, paints, and carpets, to name a few) but also the entire building can be accredited by the U.S. Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design structure - more commonly known as a LEED building. More and more people are growing familiar with this terminology as cities and universities in the U.S. and Canada start adopting green-building requirements as the norm for their facilities. (Learn more details of certification in the "LEED-certification specifics" article.)
Piqued stakeholder interest and increased stakeholder respect: News of a glistening new headquarters or renovated production facility is sure to arouse the curiosity of your stakeholders. In fact, many businesses with LEED-certified buildings, including banks, production facilities, and retail outlets, report that leading tours of their sustainable buildings is practically a full-time job.
As consumers become more knowledgeable about green living and business, their attention increasingly turns to trading with and investing in businesses that are recognized for their sustainable facilities. Perhaps that's because green buildings help stakeholders feel good about a company's commitment to corporate social responsibility. Regardless, investors are increasingly assessing companies based on their preparedness for the future and are clearly interested in how they're mitigating exposure to energy volatility. Green construction is such a compelling part of the solution to many of the crises facing the global community today (and has so much media exposure) that it's an easily understandable way to showcase your sustainability efforts to stakeholders.
Get help deciding whether to renovate your existing building, or start fresh with a new building project.
Learn more ways to green your business's office or facility: