Sunday, June 04, 2006

The cost benefits of building green

Continuing the theme of my earlier entry, there seems to be a contradiction between the conclusions of the Green Value report, which found that the increased costs of green buildings was not as significant as was generally thought, and the conclusions in an article in The Times on Barratts EcoSmart show village in Chorley, Lancashire, where Barratts are trying out environmentally friendly features in normal style houses to see whether they really are worthwhile – the conclusion the article reaches in that they are probably a bit too expensive to be cost effective.

Looking in a bit more detail at the Green Value report (which is worth reading, or at least skimming – to see the full report follow the pdf link in the box at the top right of the green value page linked above) most of the case studies are larger developments, mostly for commercial rather than residential use. There are just two residential developments – one is a large residential apartment development in New York (in fact adjoining the site of the former World Trade Centre) and the other is a owner occupied housing co-operative in British Columbia. However the New York apartments apparently have proved very popular, the indoor air quality in particular proving to be a big marketing plus.

Indeed the general view in the report, is that you cannot just look at strict financial benefits of building green – there are other benefits which are perhaps more difficult to quantify. The commercial developments all reported that the green buildings were pleasanter to work in and resulted in greater worker productivity. Plus a company whose buildings are environmentally friendly has a marketing edge, as it is perceived more favourably by the public.

Going back to the Barratts scheme, I see that none of the houses are actually going to be lived in (at least during the 18 months testing period), which is a shame. The scientists will be analyzing the merits and drawbacks of the various technologies used in the properties on the basis of the general public visiting them. Presumably after this though they will be put up for sale. It will be interesting to see how quickly they are sold, and whether people really will be willing to pay that bit extra for the green features. I suspect that many people will, perhaps more than Barratt and their accountants imagine.

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