The most fundamental mission of our commercial Learning Center is to help business owners turn their project into a successful investment. This mission often means discussing tradeoffs such as cost and quality and advising investors to walk tightropes between these tradeoffs. In other words, our message is rarely of the “you can have it all” variety. This blog post is quite a bit different. While conventional wisdom might suggest a tradeoff between an environmentally-friendly building and affordability, this is not necessarily true. In fact, “building green” can actually save investors a remarkable amount of money over the course of a building’s lifespan. In this guide, we’ll answer some questions about green building and give you some tips to make your building more environmentally friendly
What is a “green” building?
A “green” or “sustainable” building is more efficient in its use of energy, water, and other resources than a conventional building.
But won’t incorporating sustainability into the design increase construction costs?
The act of constructing a more sustainable building usually costs more thanconstructing a conventional building, but when sustainability options are balanced with the return on the investment, true efficiency can be achieved. Taking some of the steps we’ve listed below can dramatically decrease your utility bills.
How do I make my building more sustainable?
- Include plenty of windows: Over 50% of electricity used in offices comes from lighting, so cutting down on the amount of artificial light needed is a great cost-cutting strategy. Such a measure is also extremely feasible thanks to the sun, a free and incredibly effective source of light that can be easily utilized by including lots of windows in a building’s design. Doing so will not only reduce dependence on artificial light and save quite a bit of money, but it will brighten up the mood of the office and increase employees’ productivity.
- Use LED light fixtures: Another way to decrease the cost of lighting is to install more efficient light bulbs. In terms of up-front costs, LED light fixtures remain a little more expensive than other light bulbs (though their price is rapidly declining), but they are over 75% more efficient than their incandescent counterparts because they lose much less energy as heat. LED bulbs also last 10 times longer.
- Turn off the lights: Installing occupancy sensors can also save on electricity costs in rooms that are not frequently used.
- Install high quality insulation: Spending a little extra on insulation with a high “R-value”, which represents heat resistance, is an excellent investment and will likely pay for itself quickly. Click here to obtain an estimate on how long it will take for adding insulation to payback from the US Department of Energy.
- Install an energy-efficient roof: A highly reflective roof surface keeps a roof cool and increases energy efficiency. It can also add to a roof’s durability and increase its longevity.
- Upgrade heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: In terms of energy efficiency, there is a huge difference between the least expensive HVAC systems and the more expensive HVAC systems. Higher quality systems save energy in a variety of ways- from relatively simple techniques such as utilizing cool outside air to keep the temperature inside cool during spring and fall to intricate techniques like using geothermal energy for heating and cooling.
- Sign up for semi-annual maintenance for your HVAC system: Regular maintenance can go a long ways in ensuring that your HVAC system continues to function efficiently and at its peak performance. If you sign up for a semi-annual contract, your HVAC contractor will give your system a check-out before every summer and winter. The benefit you’ll see in increased efficiency should easily outweigh the cost of such a contract, and the added level of comfort could boost office morale and productivity.
- Install and use ceiling fans: By increasing air movement, ceiling fans can make temperatures feel 3-5 degrees lower in a room, making it possible to turn the air conditioning temperature up a few degrees and save energy without sacrificing comfort.
- Make sure all HVAC systems are on “same page”: If there are multiple HVAC systems in a common area, make sure they are all doing the same thing and that they are never combating each other. For example, if one system is set for 78 degrees and another is set for 70 degrees, they are going to waste a ton of energy to produce 74 degrees. It would be much more efficient to just set them both for 74 degrees.
“Energy Efficiency Pays.” Association of Small Business Development Centers. American Public Power Association and Association of Small Business Development Centers, 2003. Web. <http://www.asbdc-us.org/Resources/Energy_Efficiency_Pays.pdf>.
“Find Cost-Effective Investments.” Energy Star. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/save-energy/find-cost-effective-investments>.