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Cost of building green doesn’t have to be excessive, architect says

By: Rick Benedict//October 15, 2009//

Cost of building green doesn’t have to be excessive, architect says

By: Rick Benedict//October 15, 2009//

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Nash Nunnery
Dolan Media Newswires

Jackson, MS — Going green doesn’t always mean paying more, according to a Mississippi architect who is accredited in LEED-certified building design.

“LEED-certified buildings don’t necessarily have to have excessive costs,” said Sara Hill, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-accredited professional with the Hattiesburg-based architectural firm Landry and Lewis. “Of course, if someone wishes to aim for a platinum (highest) rating, then yes. But there aren’t really any extra or excessive costs associated with just attaining a certified rating.

“Long term, it’s definitely worth the investment, however.”

But there is a perception that green buildings are more expensive to construct, said Greg Kats, a Washington, D.C., consultant for the clean energy industry. Most of the cost is from the increased time needed for handling architectural and engineering design, modeling and integrating sustainable building practices.

“Green buildings provide financial benefits that conventional buildings do not,” Kats said. “Those include lower energy costs, and health and productivity benefits.”

On average, he said, LEED-certified buildings use 30 percent less energy than conventional buildings, a savings of more than $60,000 annually for a building with 100,000 square feet.

This year in Mississippi, there are 89 LEED projects totaling 16 million square feet, according to Perry Richardson, a LEED accredited professional with Canizaro Cawthon Davis in Jackson.

“At the same price per square foot as last year, about $200, the total price for those projects is little over $3.2 billion,” he said.

Evaluating the financial effects of greener buildings is difficult.

“The costs of poor environmental and air quality — including higher absenteeism and increased respiratory ailments, allergies and asthma — are hard to measure,” said Kats. “They’ve generally been hidden in sick days, lower productivity, unemployment insurance and medical costs.”

Patrik Lazzari, director of sustainable services for Yates Construction, says LEED-certified does not necessarily mean more expensive. Variables such as how early the sustainability aspect is introduced to the design/construction, how familiar the project team is with sustainability and what type of building is under construction all affect costs.

“One aspect that is not talked a lot about is the long-term performance of the building and the benefits realized with a green building,” Lazzari said. “From a life-cycle perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  How quick the payback is, is up to the design team.”


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