Construct a green building that emits less carbon dioxide and uses less water and energy, but if it doesn’t operate as needed then your money is just going to go down the drain.
That’s why a new report that shows sustainably designed federal buildings cost 19% less to maintain is such good news.
The report, commissioned by the Government Services Administration (GSA) and conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, looked at 22 “green” federal buildings across the United States and was released on Thursday.
The report concluded that, on average, green buildings that are compared to commercial buildings in general:
- Cost less to maintain, by 19 percent
- Use less energy, by 25 percent, and less water, by 11 percent
- Emit less carbon dioxide, by 34 percent
- Have more satisfied occupants, by 27 percent
“To measure green building performance you must look at the building holistically, which includes the occupants and maintenance impacts in addition to the commonly targeted energy and water use,” said Kim Fowler, a senior research engineer and buildings relationship manager at PNNL, who is lead author of the paper.
“One can design and construct a building well, with the greenest of specifications, but if it’s not operated well or isn’t meeting the needs of the occupants, the grandest intents go out the operable window.”
“For more than a decade, the federal Government has committed itself to demonstrating that sustainably designed commercial buildings save energy, cost less to operate, have smaller carbon footprints, and more satisfied occupants,” the report stated.
“This commitment is reflected in executive orders and congressional legislation. GSa, which provides real estate for more than one million federal employees, has adopted policies to realize this commitment to sustainability. The intention of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of those policies.”
In total, PNNL looked at 22 GSA sustainably designed buildings. The research team used a consistent evaluation process for every building studied:
- Obtaining and reviewing one year of operating data
- Surveying building occupants
- Interviewing the building manager
- Conducting an expert walkthrough
The report showed four distinct findings:
- Fully integrated design delivers High Performance
- GSA’s Green buildings cost less to operate
- Sustainable design supports occupant satisfaction
- Green buildings Help GsA Meet federal Mandates
For more information, have a read of the white paper (pdf) which lays out the findings and methods, along with a host of wonderfully easy to understand charts and graphs.