Green Building: Myths and Realities

Sustainability costs more, which ignores recent research as well as the reality that for any society to thrive and prosper, it must seek to create a healthy balance between its environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Sustainability is not just about building green but about building a healthy community and sustaining a quality way of life. As a community we cannot afford to continue delaying the pursuit of new sources of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal. With the state of the economy being what it is, these efforts would help create new jobs, attract new businesses, reduce our energy costs, and create a healthy environment. Although green building has made tremendous strides in the past few years, there remain many who are still unconvinced of its benefits due to the numerous myths and misconceptions floating around the mainstream construction and real estate industries.

1/ Green/sustainable building cost much more than conventional buildings

Reality check: This is a very common misconception that continues to linger on even though it has been debunked many times over. Although on a price per square foot basis, building green may incur marginally greater upfront costs, in the long run a green home is more affordable and cost effective because the operational costs are lower when compared with conventional buildings.  It is surprising therefore that some developers still believe that building with green materials or renovating to green specifications is cost-prohibitive. In addition to this, there are various strategies and approaches that can be employed to achieve inexpensive green building. These include reducing waste, optimal value engineering, right-sizing the structure to using solar panels, low-e windows, and energy-saving appliances, and more-all of which can help qualify the project for federal tax credits. Moreover, when green thinking becomes an integral part of the initial building plans,  it is easier to design and incorporate green elements into the project.

2/ It`s just another fad and therefore not particularly important

Reality check: Over the last decade, we have witnessed an increasing interest in sustainability and a continuous growth in green building and green building certification-so much so that it has now become more than an integral part of the mainstream in the construction industry, and it is becoming the preferred building method. Furthermore, creating a healthy environment where green building does not exist cannot be considered a fad.

3/ Green building are often “unattractive” or “ugly” and lack the aesthetic quality of conventional buildings

Reality check: A green/sustainable building does not have to look any different from a conventional building. In fact many of today`s green buildings are virtually indistinguishable from traditional buildings. Moreover, green renovations of existing buildings should respect its character and if well designed, most likely won`t be noticeable from either the interior or exterior. Thus, wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Counsil (FSC) looks essentially the same as other types of wood, and when using a vegetated roof, for example, it would not continuous rows unattractive solar panels to be green or be obligated to go with solar power, although there are numerous ways to creatively integrate photovoltaic (PV) panels into a project that are both attractive and effective. Likeawise, eco-friendly shingles are actually more attractive than the common asphalt versions and some renovations are actually invisible (e.g., extra insulation or a new energy-efficient HVAC system).

4/ Green buiding is essentially about eco-friendly material selection

Reality check: Not at all. Green building is mainly concerned with how you design and orient your building, site selection, water conversation, energy performance, window location, and so on. However, making smart decisions regarding eco-friendly building materials (e.g., those possessing a high recycled contents, low embodied energy, minimal VOCs) is an important aspect of green building, but they are only a small part of the overall equation. Alex Wilson, president of BuildingGreen Inc. and executive editor of Environmental Building News says: “People are beginning to gain a greater understanding that green building is a systems approach to the entire construction process.”

5/ Green Buildings do not fetch higher rental rates or capital compared with traditional buildings

Reality check: Recent surveys consistently show that there is a growing market demand for green buildings because they achieve much higher rentals, thus capital, as a result of reduced operation costs and higher productivity of employees.



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