The Costs of Not Building Green - Green Building Elements

The Costs of Not Building Green

Despite the narrowing gap in cost between green building and traditional “to-code” building, most builders and home buyers still perceive the green option to be significantly more expensive.  The reality is that due to increased builder education and an influx of affordable green building products, a building can be built green within the same budget as a non-green building.  According to Clark Wilson, CEO of Austin based Green Builders, Inc., “It’s our job as builders to find those green products that don’t drive up the price of the home.”  Rick Hunter of the St. Louis green building firm Sage Homebuilders agrees:  “With proper planning and a little experience, building green, even certified green, can be done for about the same cost. We are building certified green homes at the highest levels of certification for less than 1% cost increase.”  For an informative breakdown on how green buildings cost from 0 to 2% more than non-green buildings, check out “The True Costs of Building Green” from the folks at Buildings.com.

Now that green building is an affordable option, it’s time to change the way we frame the affordability debate.  Too long have supporters of green building been on the defensive, forced to justify the costs of building more energy efficient, healthier, more sustainable homes.  Instead of focusing on the costs of making your building green, let’s talk about the costs of not building green.

Energy

For those strictly interested in a financial reason to go green, the energy savings of a green building speak for themselves.  With the help of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, advances in energy efficiency have resulted in savings of 40 to 60% over non-green buildings.  Greater focus on appropriately sized HVAC systems, tight construction and ducts, effective insulation, and energy efficient windows can save a significant amount of energy and money.  Add in the water savings from low-flow fixtures, tankless water heaters, very efficient appliances, greywater systems, water-friendly landscaping, and rainwater collection systems and it’s clear how wasteful a non-green building can be.  Save a little bit of money now by ignoring these green options and you could be throwing away money for years.

Health

You wouldn’t buy baby bottles with potentially harmful chemicals or toys with toxic paint, so why would you buy a whole house with both?  Paints, adhesives, and caulks can all contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs,) the greatest causes of indoor air pollution in the home, which have been tied to increased asthma rates.  Wood products in the home can contain urea-formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that is banned in Canada and Europe and soon will be on its way out in California. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied indoor air pollution in homes and “found moderate to strong increases in respiratory and allergic health effects among children in homes with higher concentrations of selected VOCs.”

Companies that still manufacture products with urea-formaldehyde or other VOCs continue to do so because it costs them less to produce and consumers continue to choose the less expensive, but less healthy, choice.  I’d like to think this is because of a lack of awareness of the health risks of such chemicals, rather than a conscious choice to expose their families to toxic chemicals.   A green building not only reduces, if not eliminates, such toxic chemicals, it constantly cleans the air through efficient HVAC and ventilation systems.

The potential health risks of non-green buildings are reason enough for many to choose to build green.

Sustainability

Third in the green trinity is sustainability, the environmental cost of your building project.  Green builders start by significantly reducing waste on building sites.  While building materials that are not recycled or made from renewable materials might seem less expensive, the cost to the environment must be considered.  And it’s not just the sustainability of the product that should be considered, but the company’s manufacturing process as well.  Naysayers point out that individuals can do little to nothing to affect the environment, but if consumers begin to favor environmentally friendly products made from companies that have cleaned up their manufacturing process, including reducing waste and using renewable energy, then other companies will be forced to follow suit.  Companies that have earned the Cradle to Cradle certification represent the height of sustainability.

If products were forced to label their environmental impact and embodied energy, consumers would think twice about many products.  Green builders seek out durable materials that leave a lighter impact on the environment.

Parting Thoughts

The energy, health, and environmental costs make traditional, “to-code” building much too expensive.  It will also be expensive for the builders themselves.  As Rick Hunter points out, “Most builders have still not fully realized that we are entering a whole new era of building; the builders that make the changes now will be the ones that prosper, those that take the wait and see approach, will ultimately be hurt.”

The builders I know don’t like to be associated with anything shoddy or cheap, much less unhealthy, so it’s only a matter of time before green building practices are adopted as the norm.  The term “builder quality” is used to describe the cheapest and lowest quality material available while still within code.  Isn’t it time for builders to take back the term “builder quality” and make it something positive?  Here’s your new slogan:  Green:  The New Builder Quality.

Related articles on affordable green housing:

Photo Credit: Svilen001 at Stock.xchng

Body fat percentage can best measure your health risks

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India) May 11, 2011 Washington, May 10 — A new study has warned that people with coronary artery disease and expanded waistlines are at more than twice the risk of dying, including those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the normal range.

These conclusions result from a large study by the Mayo Clinic, involving almost 16,000 people from five countries around the world.

Authors Dian Griesel, and Tom Griesel claim the problem is deeper. It is not just the fat you see. ‘Even more dangerous is the visceral belly fat that resides in the abdominal cavity and surrounds the internal organs. This internal fat actually makes up a large proportion of the waist measurement,’ said the Griesels. see here body fat percentage calculator

Visceral fat is more metabolically active and can produce hormones and other substances that have a negative impact on your health including increasing the risk of serious health problems like heart disease; high blood pressure; stroke; type 2 diabetes; metabolic syndrome; some types of cancer; and sleep apnea.

Contrary to common thinking, BMI is not the best measurement for overall risk because many people with readings in the normal range still have dangerous levels of (hidden) visceral fat. BMI is just a measure of weight in proportion to height. this web site body fat percentage calculator

‘Throw away your traditional scale,’ say the Griesels. ‘The only relevant measurement is your Body Fat Percentage. This can be easily calculated with a neck and waist measurement for men, and neck, waist and hip measurements for women.’ Interestingly, even if you are not overweight, a waist measurement of over 33 inches, regardless of your weight, increases health risks.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian News International.

For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com


About the Author

  • I couldn’t agree more with this post. We are a green building retailer and we are constantly having to defend our products and it should be the other way around. The companies that make and sell toxic products should have to explain why they are doing that. We understand that the green movement is finally gaining momentum and we are glad to educate consumers but we often feel like we are perceived as the bad guy, when in fact the products that we offer are healthier, greener alternatives to conventional building and home improvement products. We are constantly asked “Why should I use green products, when the conventional products serve me just fine?”

    As we learn more and more about the effects of products that have VOCs are not recyclable, we are hoping more people will start questioning the conventional building products and demanding products that are good for us and the environment.

  • I couldn’t agree more with this post. We are a green building retailer and we are constantly having to defend our products and it should be the other way around. The companies that make and sell toxic products should have to explain why they are doing that. We understand that the green movement is finally gaining momentum and we are glad to educate consumers but we often feel like we are perceived as the bad guy, when in fact the products that we offer are healthier, greener alternatives to conventional building and home improvement products. We are constantly asked “Why should I use green products, when the conventional products serve me just fine?”

    As we learn more and more about the effects of products that have VOCs are not recyclable, we are hoping more people will start questioning the conventional building products and demanding products that are good for us and the environment.

  • The Mayor of Dallas, Texas, where I live, has recently stated that he wants the City to become one of the “Greenest” in the country. Hence, changes are being introduced to the building codes.

    What we have seen, is that when our recycled, reclaimed floors are offered at a competitive price point, we win. It’s better wood, better for the environment and due to the economy, not only is being more “Green” becoming more acceptable, but conserving in general is “in”.

    With our Heart Pine having a “story”, we are seeing much greater interest and acceptance.

    Pat Hicks
    http://www.newlifehardwoodfloors.com

  • The Mayor of Dallas, Texas, where I live, has recently stated that he wants the City to become one of the “Greenest” in the country. Hence, changes are being introduced to the building codes.

    What we have seen, is that when our recycled, reclaimed floors are offered at a competitive price point, we win. It’s better wood, better for the environment and due to the economy, not only is being more “Green” becoming more acceptable, but conserving in general is “in”.

    With our Heart Pine having a “story”, we are seeing much greater interest and acceptance.

    Pat Hicks
    http://www.newlifehardwoodfloors.com

  • David Anderson

    This is a great post. Thank you, Joel.

  • Michelle

    Excellent article. Great thoughts on building green. Recently I asked some of our contractors how to fix this house to be more ‘green’. Unfortunately they had no solutions to rennovate an already built house (no solutions that wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive). I was so disappointed. The only thing that we seemed to be able to implement easily was water-friendly landscaping. I sure hope that people get up on this faster… including MYSELF!

  • Michelle

    Excellent article. Great thoughts on building green. Recently I asked some of our contractors how to fix this house to be more ‘green’. Unfortunately they had no solutions to rennovate an already built house (no solutions that wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive). I was so disappointed. The only thing that we seemed to be able to implement easily was water-friendly landscaping. I sure hope that people get up on this faster… including MYSELF!

  • Thanks for the comments,everyone.

    Michelle, a few months ago the US Green Builders Council and the American Society of Interior Designers released a program for remodeling green. Called REGREEN, the program gives examples of green remodeling projects through case studies. Here’s an article I wrote about it this Spring:

    https://greenbuildingelements.com/2008/04/10/usgbc-and-asid-launch-regreen-green-remodeling-guidelines/

  • Thanks for the comments,everyone.

    Michelle, a few months ago the US Green Builders Council and the American Society of Interior Designers released a program for remodeling green. Called REGREEN, the program gives examples of green remodeling projects through case studies. Here’s an article I wrote about it this Spring:

    https://greenbuildingelements.com/2008/04/10/usgbc-and-asid-launch-regreen-green-remodeling-guidelines/

  • Discuss Energy Environment Issues :
    Energy Environment Forum
    It will be great to have you there !

  • Discuss Energy Environment Issues :
    Energy Environment Forum
    It will be great to have you there !

  • BRAVO!!!! I’d like to print this article out and frame it!! It is definitely time we focus on the TRUE costs of standard construction. This makes sustainable construction a “no brainer.”

  • BRAVO!!!! I’d like to print this article out and frame it!! It is definitely time we focus on the TRUE costs of standard construction. This makes sustainable construction a “no brainer.”

  • Joel,
    While I definitely agree with your first point (energy), and can see the rationale of the other two, they are not as convincing.

    For the health pay back of using low VOCs, if there is no immediate or imminent pay back, then that’s not a strong argument. Too many people can use the rationale of “It won’t happen to me.” Sure, aggregate numbers may show otherwise, but we don’t think aggregately.

    For sustainability, if a sustainable product costs the same as a non-sustainable product, or is minimally priced more, I’d buy it. And, I bet the vast majority of people would do the same. But, no matter how sustainable a product is, if it costs more, I don’t care about the environment (would be my rationale). I’m more concerned about my pocketbook.

    Your post did spur thoughts around a new post for me, so I definitely appreciate your thoughts here. For most people and companies, if you can’t save or make green, you won’t be green.

    -Mike

  • Joel,
    While I definitely agree with your first point (energy), and can see the rationale of the other two, they are not as convincing.

    For the health pay back of using low VOCs, if there is no immediate or imminent pay back, then that’s not a strong argument. Too many people can use the rationale of “It won’t happen to me.” Sure, aggregate numbers may show otherwise, but we don’t think aggregately.

    For sustainability, if a sustainable product costs the same as a non-sustainable product, or is minimally priced more, I’d buy it. And, I bet the vast majority of people would do the same. But, no matter how sustainable a product is, if it costs more, I don’t care about the environment (would be my rationale). I’m more concerned about my pocketbook.

    Your post did spur thoughts around a new post for me, so I definitely appreciate your thoughts here. For most people and companies, if you can’t save or make green, you won’t be green.

    -Mike

  • Mike,

    You make some good points, and I completely agree with you on the sustainability point. The higher the price of an environmentally friendly product, the less likely consumers will choose it. Companies are trying to determine what the magic number is – how much higher will people pay. We’re trying to determine that ourselves through surveys but I’m sure you can imagine that what people say they would buy and what they actually buy are two different things. So it is up to manufacturers to build sustainable products that are still within reasonable range of the product they are replacing.

    I will, however, disagree with you on the health point. In my experience, health risks do not need aggregate numbers to convince (i.e. scare) consumers. In the Kitchen and Bath industry, health trumps both energy and sustainability when it comes to green purchases. Countertop manufacturers boast their GREENGUARD certifications and cabinet manufacturers are rushing to lower their formaldehyde levels. Much of this is due to recent media attention on the health risks of formaldehyde and other VOCs, and people who are remodeling their kitchens do not want to endanger their children. In short, we don’t need to convince anyone to choose the healthy alternative, we just need to point out that there is one.

    Please come back and comment any time.
    Joel

  • Mike,

    You make some good points, and I completely agree with you on the sustainability point. The higher the price of an environmentally friendly product, the less likely consumers will choose it. Companies are trying to determine what the magic number is – how much higher will people pay. We’re trying to determine that ourselves through surveys but I’m sure you can imagine that what people say they would buy and what they actually buy are two different things. So it is up to manufacturers to build sustainable products that are still within reasonable range of the product they are replacing.

    I will, however, disagree with you on the health point. In my experience, health risks do not need aggregate numbers to convince (i.e. scare) consumers. In the Kitchen and Bath industry, health trumps both energy and sustainability when it comes to green purchases. Countertop manufacturers boast their GREENGUARD certifications and cabinet manufacturers are rushing to lower their formaldehyde levels. Much of this is due to recent media attention on the health risks of formaldehyde and other VOCs, and people who are remodeling their kitchens do not want to endanger their children. In short, we don’t need to convince anyone to choose the healthy alternative, we just need to point out that there is one.

    Please come back and comment any time.
    Joel

  • Joel,
    First, sorry for the belated reply. For the health issue, I do agree with you — in many cases, but not all. For example, a couple of my sons have varying degrees of allergies. So, when we had to have a new furnace installed, we agreed to go with a higher-end filter that is supposed to be great for filtering out allergens.

    However, for some health issues, I think people have the attitude that it won’t happen to them. Smoking is one example (those who are starting, not those already addicted). Aren’t some carpets suspected of causing health problems? “My carpet has never made me sick, why should I care?” (Is one line of thinking I could take.)

    -Mike

  • Joel,
    First, sorry for the belated reply. For the health issue, I do agree with you — in many cases, but not all. For example, a couple of my sons have varying degrees of allergies. So, when we had to have a new furnace installed, we agreed to go with a higher-end filter that is supposed to be great for filtering out allergens.

    However, for some health issues, I think people have the attitude that it won’t happen to them. Smoking is one example (those who are starting, not those already addicted). Aren’t some carpets suspected of causing health problems? “My carpet has never made me sick, why should I care?” (Is one line of thinking I could take.)

    -Mike

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  • Is nice to see some good articles like this one, thank you.

  • Is nice to see some good articles like this one, thank you.

  • Every time i come here I am not dissapointed, nice post

  • Every time i come here I am not dissapointed, nice post

  • Sabine

    Green Building Products will cost 10-15% more.www.SabinesHome.com

  • Green buildings are the great ways to reduce the pollution as well as the cost to build it.