Thursday, November 16, 2006

Something in the Air

There is something in the air at this Greenbuild‹a certain confidence, optimism, or maturity. The sense of urgency--the need to turn the construction, design, and development industries toward more sustainable practices quickly--is just as palpable among attendees and presenters as at past conferences, perhaps even more pronounced.

What is new is that the arguments for building sustainably are more developed and compelling than ever before. And the barriers--the reasons many clients and owners typically cite for not building green--seem to be falling away.

Take the educational session I attended Wednesday afternoon about the economics of building green schools and hospitals. Lisa Fay Matthiessen, from Davis Langdon, presented her study showing that Green Guide for Healthcare certification should add little or no additional cost to projects.

Greg Kats, from Capital E, shared the results of a study that examined about 30 green schools. It found that green schools cost only 1.7 percent more than conventional facilities. The payback for energy-saving strategies alone was only four years, according to the study. And the payback for all of the green strategies, including energy- and water-saving measures, was only one year.

With the benefits to teachers and students long associated with improved daylighting, thermal comfort and indoor air quality, and such a minimal premium, "the question is no longer why build green schools," said Kats. "The question is why not build green schools."

-Joann Gonchar

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