New research challenges the perception that sustainability costs

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GLOBE-Net, August 14, 2014 – New research challenges the perception that sustainable buildings are necessarily more costly to construct, by presenting the actual costs and savings associated with a wide range of sustainable building strategies.

The research team from Sweett Group, a global provider of professional services for the construction and management of building and infrastructure projects and BRE, the UK based Building Research Establishment Group, applied cost data from real construction projects to three case study buildings – an office, secondary school and community healthcare center – to produce detailed capital and operational cost information.

Their report, Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and Payback, presents the actual costs of a range of individual sustainability strategies, and the additional costs (if any) of achieving various levels of overall building sustainability. In addition it reveals the associated payback to be gained from reduced utility costs. The study investigated the:

Capital costs of measures to improve sustainability, including readily usable no or low cost measures, along with those that must be built into the project early on to minimize their costs, capital costs of achieving overall levels of building sustainability, using the costs associated with gaining Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent ratings under the BREEAM sustainability rating scheme,

Life cycle costs of operating buildings, focusing on energy and water consumption – the study found that specifying sustainability measures during the design and procurement stages can bring cost savings without adding significantly, or at all, to upfront costs.

The researchers concluded that achieving the lower BREEAM ratings can incur little or no additional cost. Targeting the higher BREEAM ratings, and so more challenging levels of sustainability, incurs some additional cost but this is typically less than 2%. The investigation of life cycle operational costs showed that any additional cost can be paid back within 2–5 years through utility savings.

“This study adds to a growing body of work on the costs and value of sustainability,” says Yetunde Abdul of BRE, one of the report’s authors. “It provides further strong evidence that a sustainable approach need not add significantly to building costs. And, where there are additional capital costs, these can be repaid relatively quickly through the reduced costs of operating the building.”

“This report provides a practical resource to help developers and their project teams target and then deliver buildings that meet high standards of environmental performance” says Adam Mactavish, Operations Director – Management Consulting, for Sweett Group.

Research conducted by GLOBE Advisors on BC’s green building and construction industry, including a 2012 Market Report, supports the findings from BRE’s work. More and more, firms are using Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other software-based technologies as part of their cost-effective integrated design process (IDP), enabling projects to be executed at lower cost due to efficiencies gained through IDP at all project phases.

In addition, the trend toward adopting net-zero energy and passive house concepts in North America is resulting in the adoption of “low-tech” principles over more complicated technology options, such as renewable energy solutions, which can often add to the upfront cost of a project.

“The secret is to keep it ridiculously simple when it comes to building design” said Paul Shorthouse, Managing Director at GLOBE Advisors. “Embracing net-zero and passive design concepts by using natural lighting and ventilation, thick walls and insulation, and reducing energy loads in buildings, should always be top priorities.  Applying energy recovery and generation technologies should only come after demand for energy is minimized.”

Further information on Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and Payback is available at www.brebookshop.com.

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