Going ‘green’ does not mean onerous programs

The “green” momentum is growing in the Garden State and throughout the nation; however, local governments and some developers are hesitant to embrace “green” strategies because of concerns over cost and the process of implementation. Some would like to explore green practices but do not know where to begin.

There is also fear that “going green” involves impractical, onerous and exotic programs. In spite of fears and hesitations, they are continuing to feel the pinch of escalating energy bills and the increased cost of facility operation and maintenance. Local governments are challenged with keeping taxes in check.

New Jersey’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC-NJ) can take the fear out of “going green.” USGBC-NJ can provide local governments with our extensive resources and experience. We offer the facts and can dispel the misinformation regarding green building and LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]. USGBC-NJ offers the education and experience of more than 750 LEED-accredited professionals statewide, within all areas of the building sector.

Why is it important to build “green” according to LEED standards? Because LEED buildings produce quantifiable results.

There are many “shades of green” but LEED is the onemeasurable standard that provides a roadmap formeasuring and documenting success for every building type and phase of a building life cycle. Minimal LEED certification can save money and involves very real, practical strategies.

The primary myth surrounding LEED and green building is that it costs more. However, several recent, credible studies indicate that building green costs the same or less than traditional building.And those who build green realized significant savings in operation and maintenance.

One study by the New Buildings Institute indicates that new buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system are performing 25 to 30 percent better than non- LEED-certified buildings in terms of energy use. The study also documents a correlation between increasing levels of LEED certification and increased energy savings.

Gold and platinum LEED-certified buildings have average energy savings approaching 50 percent.

A study by CoStar Group indicates LEED buildings command rent premiums of more than $11.24 per square foot more than non-LEED buildings with a 3.8 percent higher occupancy rate. In the real estate market, LEED buildings bring in $171 more per square foot than non-LEED buildings. These studies confirm that highperformance buildings not only are more cost effective to build and maintain, they have charted a significant demand in the marketplace.

According to the recent Davis Langdon report, “The Cost of Green Revisited,” average construction costs have risen dramatically the past three years – between 25 and 30 percent. And yet we still see a large number of projects achieving LEED within budget. In many areas of the country, the contracting community has embraced sustainable design and no longer sees sustainable design requirements as additional burdens to be priced in their bids.

Green buildings are a significant part of the solution to energy dependence and climate change. Commercial and institutional buildings built according to LEED are designed to use an average of 32 percent less electricity, 26 percent less natural gas and 36 percent less total energy than standard buildings.

Pennsylvania has wholeheartedly embraced green building through LEED. What Pennsylvania found was that experience gained in green building enabled them to bring the cost down to at or below traditional building practices. They are realizing significant savings in operation and maintenance. If our neighbors west of the Delaware can deliver such savings, there is no reason why we can’t, too.

Adopting LEED certification as a standard for new building is not just a measure that protects the environment. LEED can ensure healthier buildings for people to live and work, which has been documented to show results in increased business productivity. And finally, LEED can deliver real results in energy savings. That’s a certain win for local taxpayers.
Andrew Topinka
U.S. Green Building Council-N.J.
North Brunswick