The Economy of Building Green
By Robert Towell, Chartered Architect, RIBA, of Robert Towell Architects Ltd.
By definition, green architecture and design is an approach to building which minimises harmful effects on our health and the environment. It attempts to protect our air, water and the planet by specifying eco-friendly building materials and construction practices that minimally impact the environment. As energy costs in the region and around the globe continue to skyrocket, but building costs for sustainable materials and products continue to drop, and the public becomes increasingly green-savvy, building in harmony with nature is becoming a more cost-effective solution to reduce our impact on the earth. With the facts as they are, we can no longer afford not to consider green design.
GOING GREEN TO SAVE GREEN
With the global economy slowly recovering, resources becoming scarcer and energy costs soaring, architects, engineers, developers and building owners have been forced to re-evaluate past design fundamentals for new and existing residential and commercial projects. There are two costs associated with building: the cost to construct and the yearly operational costs. The general consensus is that while green building may initially cost more during the construction phase, owners will quickly recoup that additional investment through lower operating costs while adding investment value now and into the future. However, not all green projects include the same characteristics. Being green is a change in mind-set rather than a checklist.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
When considering a green project some obvious building techniques utilised in the Caribbean include the use of solar energy systems, wind power, geothermal heat pumps for air conditioning and liquid propane gas (LPG) as an alternative to electricity. Other solutions to lower operational costs include water-saving toilets, low-flow faucets and showerheads, tank-less water heaters, energy efficient windows and doors, better-insulated wall assemblies, Energy Star appliances, and high efficiency AC systems. By incorporating green techniques into the building, property value is increased due to the ever-rising demand for energy efficient projects. Potential buyers invest knowing their utility and maintenance costs will be lower in green buildings; commercial occupancy levels will remain higher; and the building will retain a high resale value if it includes sustainable design components.
Green design does not mean compromising on quality or design standards. Today, there is an overabundance of aesthetically pleasing, design-forward products that offer quality whilst being kind to the planet. An architect educated in ecofriendly methods can offer a myriad of recommendations and solutions, providing the owner with comfort and confidence while adding increased durability, as well as energy and water efficiency to produce a smaller environmental footprint and an architecturally pleasing project.
With many methods for designing a green residential or commercial project that will ultimately save money, offer greater return on investment (ROI) and reduce impact on the environment, we in the Caribbean and throughout the world must look to move forward with these savvy solutions. By building greener you are making the right decision for your wallet, your family, and the environment.
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