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Green…The Colour of Sustainability

Monday, September 17, 2012 | By Andre Kelshall
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Green…..the colour of sustainabilityThe term “green” in recent times has taken on a whole new light when associated with any kind of physical land development. Today it is not only part of a colour palette being used, but a term that measures the level of sustainability of a project from its design through to its construction. It also takes into account the project’s operation and maintenance over its projected life cycle.

In today’s world of information overload, developers are finding themselves catering to a niche clientele that is very interested in the “green” or sustainable component of the product being offered. The importance of having key members of the design team knowledgeable on the process and even certified under one of the recognised reporting agencies for green design and construction is therefore not a benefit to the project but more of a necessity.

What is “Green” development?


The term ‘Green’ in today’s world is the concept of ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable development’. In 1987 a report titled “Our Common Future”, also called the “Bruntland Commissions Report”, defined sustainable development as “meet(ing) the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.[i] This statement captures two important principles of sustainable development - the ongoing responsibility of one generation to future generations, as well as the need to look at our social, economic and environmental responsibilities not as individual responsibilities but how they influence each other in the larger world in which we live. As green certified professionals, we have to look into our responsibilities and view the findings as opportunities to create fundamentally better buildings and landscape spaces that are more efficient, more appealing to the wider community, more comfortable for its users and ultimately more profitable for the developer.

Today there are many non-profit agencies that provide guidelines for developers and consultants to follow or just use as references throughout the process of development, from concept through to construction and operation. Arguably the leader in this field is the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The US Green Building Council has developed a rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED is an internationally-recognised green building certification system that promotes sustainable building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognise projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.[ii]

How does developing “Green” benefit the developer?


There are many reasons, other than those listed above, and the general social and environmental responsibility, for developers to go green. These include:

The Product will have a Competitive Advantage – with all the green principles used to design and construct projects, the end result will offer lower operating cost by addressing the following:

  • Site Conservation;
  • Water Conservation and Recycling;
  • Greater occupant health and productivity;
  • Energy Conservation;
  • Renewable Energy;

All of which are attractive to corporate and individual buyers in today’s market.

Green Certification can Help Mitigate Risk – building green can provide some measure of protection against future litigation by having a 3rd party verification and documentation process of all the measures installed within the building to protect and improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) rather than just satisfying building codes. Another risk management and benefit of building or developing green is that due to today’s purchaser awareness and the known benefits of a green building, rental and/or sales of the development are increased over that of conventional projects.

Building Green can be Cost Effective and Beneficial to the Developer – Although debatable, it is reported that the cost of developing a green project per square foot will require an additional 2% -5% in capital investment. The result of this increased capital will offer a life cycle saving of up to 20% on total construction costs due to the levels of energy efficiencies afforded by a green building. Levels of occupant productivity also increase as a result of the improved indoor air quality. It is also worth noting that it is reported that sale/rental prices of green buildings are higher per square foot than that of conventional buildings by as much as 10% in the more ‘green’ educated markets.

Statistics:


Perceived cost benefits of green building according to building owners:

  • Operating costs decrease 13.6% for new construction and 8.5% for existing building projects.
  • Building value increases 10.9% for new construction and 6.8% for existing building projects.
  • Return on investment improves 9.9% for new construction and 19.2% for existing building projects.
  • Occupancy increases 6.4% for new construction and 2.5% for existing building projects.
  • Rent increases 6.1% for new construction and 1% for existing building projects.
  • Benefits from green projects as reported by owners: ROI improvements - 19.2% on average for retrofit/renovation green projects as compared to 9.9% on average for new projects.[iii]

Market Barriers to Green Development


Like everything else there are not only positives as it relates to the design and construction of a “Green” development. There are many barriers that may deter persons from looking at developing “green”, none of which are insurmountable. Some of these hurdles are:

Misconception and Uncertainty – Due to the lack of educational awareness about the concept and the benefits of green building in the local Caribbean market, the demand for such will be less and consumers tend to overlook the energy efficiency and the occupant health associated with green projects and only look at the bottom line cost of the product. However, the region relies on tourism as one of its major industries and with this comes the knowledge and demand from international markets. This demand will help in developing awareness of the benefits and trends in green building throughout the region.

Expertise and Resources – In all sectors of development, the process of identifying appropriate consultants, construction firms and specifying appropriate materials can be cumbersome and costly. With regard to the local and governing authorities within the public sector, the long standing building codes which regulate the building and development in the region may guide the authorities away from the principles and guidelines of green building and, through no fault of the agencies, a delay can be expected in terms of permissions and approvals.[iv] However, currently in the English speaking Caribbean there are over 20 LEED certified professionals, from architects and landscape architects to interior designers, engineers and project managers, who through accreditation with the US Green Building Council can facilitate the design and certification process as part of a developers team with the ultimate goal as being a recognised “Green” development.

Today, standards for ‘Green’ development are a rapidly changing concept with new standards and technologies being introduced annually. As developers, one must always strive for excellence and be ahead of the proverbial pack while keeping the product fresh and attractive. Looking into the future of green building, the ultimate goal is to design and construct projects that are beyond ‘green’. This concept has been termed ‘regenerative’ developments. These developments will not only generate their own energy and water to suffice their own needs but will replenish natural resources for others to benefit. Developers, with the combined expertise of the consultant team, need to reiterate the importance of designing and developing projects that will put less of a strain on our natural resources and leave little to no impact on our environment so as to preserve the lands for future generations to follow.

Andre Kelshall Dip. LARC. LEED Green Associate
Principal
Talma Mill Studio

Talma Mill Studios is a leading Caribbean landscape architectural firm. Since 1991 the firm has been at the forefront of developing Caribbean landscape architecture with a global relevance.

[i] Making a Sustainable City Happen: The Toronto Green Development Standard 2006/1987 report of The World Commission on Environment and Development titled “Our Common Future” (also called the ‘Bruntland Commission Report)
[ii] http://www.usgbc.org - What is LEED
[iii] Source: McGraw Hill Construction (2010). Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth/http://www.usgbc.org
[iv] Removing Market Barriers to Green Development: Principles and Action Projects to Promote Widespread Adoption of Green Development Practices. Author: Christopher Choi 

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