Green construction ‘cheaper than developers think’

Major players in construction and real estate routinely overestimate the cost of green building by as much as 300% - and this misconception is slowing the shift to carbon neutral developments.

These were the key findings of a study by global trade association the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) this week.

The organisation asked 1,400 people working in the industry around the world about the costs and benefits of green buildings.

The average estimate of the additional cost of implementing a range of energy efficiency measures was 17% of the total build, well over the WBCSD’s own figure of ‘about 5%’.

The survey also asked respondents to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings globally and, again, the professionals were way off.

They put emissions at 19% of the world total , less than half the true figure of 40%.

The study also found that fewer than one in seven industry respondents has participated directly in a green building project. Involvement ranges from a high of 45% in Germany to just 5% in India. About 20% of architects, engineers and developers have been involved in green building projects, compared to just 9% of owners and tenants.

“In order to achieve a step change in energy efficiency in buildings, there is a need for strongly supportive policies and regulatory frameworks. Governments and local authorities need to develop sound policies,” said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD.

The study highlights opportunities to promote green building know how and technologies as the WBCSD pushes for zero net energy construction worldwide. Zero net energy buildings will reduce demand by design, be highly efficient and generate at least as much energy as they consume.

The WBCSD’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project is a three year initiative to assess the environmental impacts of buildings and develop means to achieve zero net energy use for residential and commercial buildings.

Sam Bond

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