Build-Out Enviromental Benefits
After exhaustive research into current environmentally-sound (or "green") commercial building practices, it is apparent that there are higher up-front build-out costs, with the benefits of green construction being realized only after construction is complete. While green CRE advocates like LEED are hopeful that future advances will continue to close the gap, presently, cost-efficient build-outs tend to be detrimental rather than beneficial to the environment.
Costs and Obstacles to Green Construction Methods
- At present, green construction practices generally have a higher upfront cost than traditional construction.
- Even LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) admits that higher up-front costs are the primary deterrence cited by 49% of respondents to a recent survey (down from 76% in 2012).
- As a result, only 32% of construction companies in the US do a majority (60+%) of green construction projects; it is uncertain how many of those projects are commercial vs residential.
- However, as the Green Building Insider notes, "because of the steadily increasing popularity of sustainable and green culture, manufacturers and builders have been able to reduce their overall costs through economies of scale."
Benefits of Green Build-Outs
- LEED reports that the chief drivers of green construction are client demands (34%), environmental regulations (33%), and a desire for healthier buildings (27%).
- Additionally, there are down-the-road benefits, primarily in energy-efficiency, which can justify the initial expense. These will be explored in a separate brief.
As written, the project criteria appear to desire insights into how sustainable / green building practices may be more cost-effective in the initial build-out of a commercial building. Our initial round of research quickly found that our technology isn't yet at the point where green construction practices are more cost-effective than traditional — which is precisely why traditional construction practices are still so widespread. Rather, argue sustainability advocates, the gap in construction costs is closing and there are sufficient down-the-road benefits in, for example, energy efficiency (and, therefore, costs) to justify the additional up-front costs. As this aspect of green construction principles is to be explored in a separate brief, we will not reiterate the results here. Likewise, there are cost benefits to modular construction but this, too, is the subject of another brief.
It is important to note that some claim that there are building materials that are simultaneously less expensive and greener than traditional, but such articles always focus on home construction rather than commercial. Many of these materials, like bamboo and cork, are wholly unsuited to a commercial building (except, perhaps, in the interior facade), while others, like reclaimed wood and metal, may be more cost-effective for a person building their own home, but they are only low-cost because they are not currently being used at scale and therefore have low demand.
Since there is optimism in the green CRE community that the additional costs of green construction will continue to fall and one day reach parity with or even drop below traditional construction materials and techniques, we decided to shift gears a bit and explore whether there was any data regarding when and how that might happen; e.g., if a new building material had recently been developed in the lab which would be more green and less expensive than, for example, concrete, but simply had not reached the point of being deployed at scale. To this end, we searched Google's Scholar database and tech blogs.
We found several articles on new or in-development materials, many of which sounded very promising (this is a representative sample), but the fact that these materials were not yet deployed at scale means that while some (e.g., translucent wood) are anticipated to cost less up-front, there is as yet no real data to back those claims.
Having exhausted possible paths to even partial success, we concluded our research.