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There’s never been a better time to invest in green building

There’s never been a better time to invest in green building

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// Building

In my role as a spokesperson for the New Zealand Green Building Council, I’m often asked how the property downturn will affect the movement towards sustainable design and building. I’m happy to reply because the answer is clear: there’s never been a better time to invest in green building.
The results of a recent study by the US Government Office of Applied Science show that sustainably-designed buildings outperform the national average for buildings of their type by a substantial margin. The key findings are that these buildings have:

  • 26 percent less energy use
  • 13 percent lower aggregate maintenance costs
  • 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction
  • 33 percent fewer CO2 emissions

The cost savings from energy efficiency alone more than offset the initial premium, often in five years or less. In addition to this, McGraw Hill’s 2009 Green Outlook study found that in comparison to standard buildings, green buildings:

  • have operating costs that are eight to nine percent lower
  • values increased by 7.5 percent
  • investment return improved by 6.6 percent
  • occupancy increased by 3.5 percent
  • rent increased by three percent

These findings are also supported by a survey of Australia’s leading property owners, valuers and developers, which found annual operating cost savings of AU$5 per square metre.

Green buildings also represent a new growth market for New Zealand. The value of green building construction in the US increased fivefold from US$10 billion in 2005 to US$49 billion in 2008.

Given all that—and when the rest of the world is busy making commitments to drive a new green economy and putting a price on the environment through emission trading schemes—why are we stepping off the track?

We’ve seen this in New Zealand before, when infrastructure spend on our hospitals provided quick wins, jobs, and increased care capacity, but some of these infrastructure investments were so short-sighted in their delivery that almost whole buildings had to be replaced within 15 years. By changing capital asset planning horizons from a quick payback model of ten to 15 years to a more realistic 40-year timeframe, these investments in our nation’s building stock will pay back economically, socially and environmentally.

The new Green Star for Homes programme, developed by the Green Building Council, will start to shift this dynamic by defining a green home and enable the discerning buyer to understand what it is you’re getting, against a voluntary national standard. 

We are looking towards a new phase in our building evolution, where we connect the lifetime investment in quality buildings with a healthy, productive and environmentally and economically efficient nation.

Let’s get started.