Contract - May 2011 - (Page 70)
does it cost more to build green?
It’s a simple question, but there isn’t a clear answer
By Peter Syrett, AIA, LEED AP BD+C and Carolyn Roose, LEED green associate at Perkins+Will
Every year dozens of studies try to answer this simple question: Does it cost more to build green? And each study seems to come up with a different answer. We can accurately quantify everything. We know that ants are 33 percent of the terrestrial animal biomass on earth. We know that Shakespeare used 34,314 words to write “King Lear.” And we also know that a typical teenage boy in the United States gets 10 percent of his daily calories Figure 1 from soda. So why can’t everyone agree on what the cost is to build green? To better understand why there isn’t one answer to this question, we began by looking at 23 of the most commonly referenced studies that examine the capital costs associated with green building. While each study brings forward critical research, collectively examining to identify a universal cost premium of green buildings proved unsuccessful. The problem is not that there is a lack information on this topic, nor is there a shortage of data. The problem arises because the results from these studies draw from data sets with five major variables: (1) building type, (2) construction type, (3) rating system, (4) research methodology, and arguably most importantly, (5) the definition of green premium, making it difficult to find a simple answer to an inherently complex question (see side bar). Ultimately, these factors produced a wide delta in the cost data, from a low of zero to a high of 14 percent for the cost premium. Another key discovery of our research lies in the connections between 13 of the referenced studies (see Figure 1). We found that a significant amount of the current research on green premiums cites data sets from earlier studies, which may compound assumptions, inadvertently pull findings out of context, or draw apples to oranges comparisons. This pattern also evokes the children’s game “telephone,” where one person begins by sharing a piece of information that is whispered to all participants one at a time in a circle, until the last
person shares out what they think he or she heard. As anyone who has played the game knows, when information is passed through many ears, or sources, it often is inadvertently changed.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” —Henry Ford
9%+ 8% 7% 6% 5% 4%
Cost Premiums for Green Building:
Who’s Informing Whom?
Mapping the connections among 13 of the referenced studies, we found that a signi cant amount of the current research on green premiums anecdotally references or empirically cites data sets from earlier studies (each connection is noted by a yellow arrow). The research rests on the accuracy of a handful of earlier studies. While we have no intention of challenging the veracity of these studies, it is critical to note the vulnerability of research that relies on older, derivative data. This approach may compound assumptions or inadvertently pull ndings out of context.
A B C D E F 2–7.5% 2008
H N I J 2009 K L
A D E
0% 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
contract may 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - May 2011
Contract - May 2011
Resources: Salone Internazionale Del Mobile
Exhibition: Neocon® Preview
Focus: Timeless Tradition
Focus: In the Nude
Green: Does It Cost More to Build Green?
Practice: Gimme Some Slack!
Process: Cultural Connection
Process: Productive, People-Friendly Places
Contract - May 2011