Green Building Benefits More Than Just Environment

June 10, 2010

CFL light bulb

These days, the case for building green should be a no-brainer.  However, there is still a lot of mis-information out there about the costs and benefits.

One of the more pervasive bits is in regards to the cost of green building.  While it may be true that initial construction costs may be higher (and even this is open to debate), over the lifetime of the building the savings more than make-up for this potential cost.  Energy savings are generally touted as the great equalizer in this equation, but there are other benefits that are not so easily quantified.

In a recent post on the Philips Lighting website, several other benefits to green building are mentioned:

  • Quality lighting cut post office errors to .1%, and helped pay for the green renovation in less than one year.
  • Good lighting may increase students’ test scores and plays a significant role in achievement.
  • In health care settings, natural and optimized lighting help reduce errors, improve employee retention, and potentially hasten patient recovery.

Other features of green buildings provide additional benefits, including healthier occupants, improved mood, and increased productivity.  These are often not calculated when doing a cost/benefit analysis for going green.  More studies are needed to assist in quantifying these benefits, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty compelling.

The Rocky Mountain Institute study mentioned in the Philips post details eight case studies involving retrofits or new construction.  The results show changes in productivity, attendance, and even sales.  The often-mentioned Wal-mart study showed that products placed under natural light (through the use of skylights), sold more than similar products placed in artificial light.  The productivity increases ranged from 6-16%, and absenteeism decreased by 15-25%.  These changes resulted in real-dollar savings, and translated into increased bottom-lines, by as much as $500,000 a year!

Studies like this are extremely valuable for those making the argument to go green.  When benefits can be quantified and translated into the language of shareholders and constituents, more companies and institutions will make the choice to go green.

Photo courtesy of Joe Colburn, through a Creative Commons License.



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.