Does It Cost More To Build Green?


Many campus construction planners are surprised to learn that the cost to design and build a building is insignificant compared to the cost of owning and operating a building over its useful life. According to the Building Owners and Managers Association, only two percent of the total cost of building, owning and operating a typical recreation building over a 30-year period is for design fees and construction costs. Operations, maintenance, finance and employee costs account for the remaining 98 percent of the total costs of ownership.

To help reduce long-term costs, planners recommend adding energy-saving features such as passive lighting strategies (in the form of sky lights and translucent wall panels) and high performance insulation.

While these options may add material and installation costs, they have a payback. Over the life of the building, a high R-value insulation system combined with a low-maintenance steel roof system can reduce overall energy consumption for your facility. That means lower utility costs for decades. Numerous studies have shown that a nominal investment now can pay for itself sooner than you think.

Although some green building strategies can reduce the initial cost of a building, most of these strategies will cost slightly more than lower cost minimums that meet building codes. However, if these strategies are designed synergistically, the initial building cost can be minimized and significant savings can be realized over the life of a building. Plus, some state and federal agencies now offer rebates for energy saving measures.

You can expect the following economic benefits from an energy-efficient building:

Reduced operating costs. It is possible to reduce building energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent within the constraints of most building budgets. This increased energy efficiency can reduce energy costs over the life of a building.

Reduced construction waste: Custom engineered steel-framed buildings are designed and manufactured to reduce overall construction waste, yet retain design flexibility even in facilities that undergo frequent remodeling.

Enhanced employee productivity: Several case studies of completed green buildings have shown significant improvements in productivity because workers were breathing better quality air, had a connection to the outdoors and worked in spaces with natural daylight.

Public relations: Since green building is relatively new, we have found that many green building projects have received local and national media coverage even before ground breaking.

Streamlined regulatory approvals: Sustainable site design strategies often can build public trust and streamline regulatory approvals.

The key to realizing the economic benefits of green building is to work with design and construction professionals who have experience with this approach to construction. Since no two building projects are alike, these professionals can work with clients to develop a focused green building strategy that is cost effective and responds to the unique needs of your campus recreational facility.

Doug Yancey is the advertising manager for Varco Pruden Buildings. For more information he can be reached at or visit


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