Beyond energy savings: How green buildings can cut labor costs

Editor's Note: To learn more about energy-efficient buildings, check out VERGE@Greenbuild, November 12-13, in San Francisco, where Riggs Kubiak will be speaking.

Many sustainability-minded businesses realize that green buildings usually have lower energy costs, but that may not be the most significant reason to incorporate sustainable design in your facilities. That’s because utility bills, and even construction costs, are typically a relatively small part of a business’s bottom line. The larger portion – as much as 92 percent of a building's design, construction, operations and maintenance – comes from labor and labor-related costs. (A white paper published in Building Design+Construction puts those costs at 78 percent, while CTG Energetics President Malcolm Lewis estimates they make up an average of 92 percent.) The good news: Buildings that utilize sustainable design can realize substantial savings in their labor expenses.

The relationship between green buildings and reduced labor costs is strong, with documentable reductions in the real costs of labor and overhead. Most of the labor benefits arise from some of the less sexy aspects of green building, the ones affecting indoor environmental quality. IEQ includes indoor air quality, which is enhanced in green buildings by fewer pollutants from building materials, cleansers, equipment, etc. Less obvious green building attributes, such as quality; the availability of fresh air, daylight and views of nature; as well as the controllability of lighting, heating and cooling, all contribute to better IEQ.

All of these aspects also define the experience of the people occupying the space, whether it’s an office, home, school, medical facility or even a store. For instance, studies have shown that students learn more, customers buy more, and patients recover faster in buildings with natural light and views.

Silhouette of worker by 1971yes via Shutterstock

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