Blue Designs - Architectural Designers

Are Green Buildings more Expensive to Construct? 

Green homes built over the last 15 years have proven that it doesn’t have to cost more to build green.  The major variables are typically :- what is the experience of the architect/builder, how early in the design process were green building features incorporated, what is the source of the green materials, and how green or energy efficient does the design team want the home to be?

Green buildings designed to use fewer resources and to support the health of their inhabitants are commonly viewed as more expensive to build than conventional buildings.  For example, a 2007 opinion survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that, on average, green buildings were thought to cost 17% more than conventional buildings.  Green buildings provide a wide range of benefits both direct and indirect that make them a very good investment.

 The learning curve for architects and builders is the greatest variable. Experience has shown that the first green home a builder builds is the most expensive often 3-5% higher than conventional construction costs.  Trade contractors often increase their prices for unfamiliar products or approaches.  Their second house is 2-3% more because the learning curve has informed their process.  The third house is usually back to the cost of conventional homes they built in the past.  Part of this learning curve is to incorporate green design early in the process. To make the home as energy efficient and cost effective as possible the house needs to be sited so that the majority of windows face south (northern hemisphere) or north (southern hemisphere). Passive solar heating can reduce bills by 30-50% with little or no additional cost. Here are some factors you should consider when building green :-


1. Balancing Act.

But first costs are far from the whole story.  Building owners need to consider the life-cycle impact of investments in green building elements because they will, in many instances, justify higher first costs.  For example, when energy and water costs are considered over the life a building, they can help justify green purchasing decisions.

Once people decide to build green, they tend to view it as a competitive advantage personally and for their organization.  For example tenants who move in because the building is green.  Owners and developers who choose not to have green buildings or ignore certification will find that potential tenants aren’t interested in their buildings in a matter of a few years.

 3. Green Products.

There are more green products available today than a few years ago. You can specify everything from carpets with backings don’t contain PVC to paints that are low in volatile organic compounds to energy-efficient elevators.  Green buildings cost less today than they have in the past because there’s more competition among manufacturers. 

4. Construction & Design

Experts recommend that all the parties involved in building a structure — architects, engineers, contractors, developers, owners — get together early in the planning process so that everyone is aware that having a green building is a focus right from the start.  Not doing so means a project may fail to take advantage of “some of the most powerful aspects of green design, which are the passive components,” says Elizabeth Heider, senior vice president of construction for Skanska USA Building.  Those passive components include site selection, such as locating a new building on a brownfield site and near public transportation, as well as orienting the building east-west for solar shading and insulation.  “Once you start putting green lipstick on a building that has already been designed,” Heider says, “that building will cost more.”

Conclusion : The key to building a cost-efficient green building is to plan for it from the conceptual stage.  If green options are not "add-ons", but rather an integral part of the design process, the incremental cost is minimal.  Most green materials and strategies are cost-competitive with conventional ones when the building is considered as a whole system.   

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