The Cost-Effective Case for Building Green

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There is no question that green building is a critical component in fighting climate change considering that in the United States, buildings account for 39% of total energy use, 12% of total water consumption, 68% of total electricity consumption and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the EPA.  

The EPA defines green building as “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction…” 

While green building projects are gaining momentum, there are still some misconceptions about the cost effectiveness of these projects that create a barrier to more widespread adoption of more sustainable construction practices. The truth is, sustainable building practices yield cost savings in key areas of operations, environmental impact and building performance. 

Operational savings 

Green buildings consistently deliver measurable operational cost savings in the form of shorter payback periods and increased asset value in new green buildings and green retrofits. Environmentally sustainable buildings also use renewable energy sources that significantly reduce the cost of power, heating and cooling, making them less costly and easier to maintain. A 2018 heating and cooling survey by cooling company Carrier and data firm Dodge Data & Analytics found that operating costs over a year were cut by 9% for green retrofits and by 8% for new green buildings. 

Environmental impact savings 

The cost of climate change is huge. According to NPR’s climate team, “the U.S. has experienced more than $500 billion - with a B - in losses directly from climate-fueled weather disasters. And that's not including 2020's disasters that will likely be in the tens of billions.” 

Green buildings can reduce the environmentally damaging effects of traditional construction practices and help stave off these costly environmental impacts from powerful hurricanes, wildfires and drought. Sustainable buildings practices are working to protect the environment by reducing carbon, water, energy and waste and prioritizing safer materials.  

Building material performance savings 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), green building is “a significant predictor of tangible improvements in building performance, and those improvements have considerable value.” A University of California–Berkeley study cited by USGBC found that, “on average, certified green office buildings rented for 2% more than comparable nearby buildings. After adjusting for occupancy levels, they identified a 6% premium for certified buildings. The researchers calculated that at prevailing capitalization rates, this adds more than $5 million to the market value of each property.” 

Green building performance is driven in part by the use of building products that optimize energy-efficiency and minimize carbon emissions. That’s where Kingspan insulated metal panels (IMPs) can help to make a dent in climate change. Kingspan IMPs are produced in a low-carbon, environmentally efficient way. Our manufacturing facilities are transitioning to all renewable energy. Already, in Columbus, Ohio, our BENCHMARK panels are produced using direct-to-grid wind energy. 

Our advanced QuadCore® technology manufactured in Modesto, California, uses recycled plastic water bottles as one of the ingredients in its raw materials, improving the circularity of our products. As part of our Planet Passionate initiative we are committed to recycling 500 million plastic bottles each year by 2023 for use in our IMPs, with a further target of one billion bottles each year by 2025. 

Kingspan is also working to reduce embodied carbon levels in the built environment. Embodied carbon is here to stay, so it is an important target in order to plan for the future. A recent study conducted by architectural research and planning firm KieranTimberlake compared different industrial claddings in the design of a virtual industrial building and examined their impact on embodied carbon. The study found that in the modelling used for the research, Kingspan QuadCore® IMPs were clearly a lower carbon choice than conventional systems such as insulated concrete, tilt-up concrete and mineral fiber IMPs for building envelopes. 

The higher R-values and increased energy efficiency of Kingspan IMPs coupled with the ability to reuse or recycle portions of our IMPs at the end of their lifecycle, results in performance and sustainability that will go a long way in helping build a lower carbon world. In fact, the total projected energy savings over the lifetime of the Kingspan insulation systems, sold worldwide in 2019, is equivalent to taking 79 million cars off the road annually.  

Making the case for the cost effectiveness of green buildings is easy. The bottom line is that green buildings cost less to build than traditional buildings considering the operational savings, environmental impact savings and building material performance savings. 

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