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Would you pay more for a sustainably designed home?

Was doing some quick research on triple bottome line and found an interesting article by Joel Makower,“The Confounding Complexities of Building Green”. Found the article very interesting but overall I would say that it recomfirmed my belief that Sustainable Building is not done for four simple reasons:

1) Most builders don’t have the knowhow or experience.

  • Others who do have the knowhow, i.e. – Architects and engineers, can be influential on green matters, but their influence on key decisions may be limited, especially if they do not work together in an integrated fashion.
  • Additionally, they often don’t have any greater incentive to push green design or materials.

2) Construction is the organization of many different players.

  • “Building green turns out to be an overly complex proposition, with a fragmented value chain and a confounding lack of integration and coordination among the various players”.
  • “The complexity of interaction among these participants is one of the greatest barriers to energy-efficient buildings.”

3) Whole system design or as Makower puts it “concurrent thinking” is just not deployed by most builders/developers

  •  “We have to go beyond just thinking about air conditioning. We have to think about how the air conditioning is part of the building system, and how customers can more effectively make those trade-offs” — for example, between building orientation, the number of windows, or the thickness of insulation on the one hand, and the size of the air conditioning system on the other.
  • Basically, the cost higher quality design and materials are often offset by smaller HVAC systems or less necessary lighting and so on.

4) The last but probably the biggest reason: Buildings last around a century or more but developers and builders normally hold buildings for a short time before selling them. Therefore, the extra up-front cost of some materials/items/practices or extra design time is not seen as a wise investment; however:

  • “an energy-efficient building can command a premium. According to the Green Building SmartMarket Report 2006, professionals expect greener buildings to garner an average 7.5% increase in value over comparable standard buildings, together with a 6.6% better return on investment.”
  • and why shouldn’t they: “Lighting, cooling, and maintenance make up as much as 85 percent of a building’s fifty-year life-cycle cost, and the lion’s share of those costs are locked in during the design phase, before any construction begins. So, thinking through costs, benefits, and trade-offs early on has a high leverage factor.”

Overall, money talks so would you pay more for a sustainably designed home or building? 

Extra note: “It’s sad, but in many cases you find the marble in the lobby gets higher preference to a new higher-performing chiller or mechanical system because of who makes the decision, and which one is valued more,” says Sisson, who led the WBCSD project on behalf of UTC.