Sunday, November 05, 2006

Are we there yet?

As the election winds down for those of us who write about it (or not), attention will inevitably turn to something else. Buried beneath several election-related stories, the Sun gets the ball rolling with a question for readers:

The new, 56,000-square-foot Glenwood Community Center uses some of the latest in "green" building technology and design, including geothermal energy for heating and cooling and large windows to provide natural light. It is the first county-owned building to meet national standards for energy savings - and it cost $13.8 million. How much of a priority should the county be putting on environmentally friendly design and technology in its buildings and infrastructure - and how much of a premium should it be willing to pay?
The question is fine, but the framing is just horrible. It is very misleading to include the seemingly-high cost of the green building ($13.8 million) without even mentioning how much the actual premium was or that green features help reduce the long-term operating costs. Indeed, the future savings often outweigh the upfront premium (even accounting for the time value of money), meaning we would have actually paid a premium to be not-green.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like it would be that much additional costs, given what they are planning on installing. Geothermal energy has been around for quite a while, basically a heatpump system, but the coils are buried beneath the ground. It is becoming very common place is the building site can accomodate the coil system.

And large windows can be Low E.

The cost is going down to green buildings, because it is becoming more commonplace and manufacturers and contractors becoming more educated, and competition is increasing. The cost for a LEED certified building can be as low as .5% for initial costs, and not even not factoring long term savings.

Anonymous said...

Good catch on the Sun espousing tired and inaccurate assumptions of 'green' buildings' costs.

Check DPZ's preliminary plans for Town Center. It makes similarly misleading statements about the higher cost of green construction, precluding it from being more widely incorporated into the plan.

Green building is flourishing across the country and, in many places, commercial property owners get to not only reap the benefits of lower total cost of ownership, but also are getting higher lease rates for these more responsible and aesthetic environs.

Hayduke said...

When housing for low-incomes families can be both affordable and green, indications are that there is no longer much of a premium, even if the assumption is still there. The above link is to a wildly popular program run by an organization that might or might not pay me to work everyday.

Interesting that the market for green buildings is ahead of conventional wisdom.