2007 The Cost of Green Revisited

Revisiting the question of the cost of incorporating sustainable design features into projects, this paper builds on the work undertaken in the earlier paper "Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budget Methodology," released in 2004, and looks at the developments that have occurred over the past three years, as sustainable design has become more widely accepted and used.

In 2004, Davis Langdon examined the cost of green from three perspectives: the cost of incorporating individual sustainable elements, the cost of green buildings compared to their original budget. This paper provides an updated look at the cost of green by examining a larger sampling of buildings and looking at additional building types. In both this and the earlier paper, the USGBC's LEED rating system is used as a parameter for determining level of sustainable design.

The 2006 study shows essentially the same results as 2004: there is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. Many project teams are building green buildings with little or no added cost, and with budgets well within the cost range of non-green buildings with similar programs.  We have also found that, 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. Data from this study shows that many projects are achieving certification through pursuit of the same lower cost strategies, and that more advanced, or more expensive strategies are often avoided. Most notably, few projects attempt to reach higher levels of energy reduction beyond what is required by local ordinances, or beyond what can be achieved with a minimum of cost impact. 

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