Green Building: More Expensive And Less Efficient

by Angela Logomasini on December 17, 2012 · 4 comments

in Environment, Features

Washington, D.C., lawmakers are preparing to pass a tough new “green building” code, which supposedly will make our buildings more energy efficient and save money. But experience with such codes elsewhere show that they don’t always work as planned.

My colleague Todd Myers of the the Washington Policy Center has done a great job highlighting the many pitfalls associated with  green building mandates. Myers has shown consistently that “green building” does not live up to its energy-saving  promises. In particular, he points out that many of the certified “green schools” in his home state of Washington are among the least energy efficient schools. In a recent blog post, he explains: “[Green] Schools cost more to build and then end up using more energy, not less, in most cases. The state [Washington] itself confirmed those findings in its audit completed last year.”

A recent news story in USA Today, Myers notes, shows that the failure of “green” schools is a national problem. “[T]he real winners with green building standards aren’t students or the environment. They are the architects and engineers who charge more to design these buildings, and the politicians who tout support for ‘green’ standards in public campaigns, even if the schools are short on delivering real benefits,” Myers explains.

Image Credit: Wonderlane on Flickr.

Bob Robertson December 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Govt programs are always measured not by their actual results, but by the rhetoric used and the supposed “ends” at which they are aimed.

Actual results and not using the ends to justify the means, would lead to astounding progress and reduce corruption. Can’t have that.

Kevin Delaney December 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

People need to differentiate between “marketed as green” and designed for efficiency.

Greenies scream at me for this, but I still think the best way to design green is with a good old cost/benefit analysis.

altscribe December 31, 2012 at 10:11 pm

In the Athens, Georgia area school systems and the University of Georgia have had great success with “green” school buildings – built that way because they save money. Sadly, many school systems will modify plans and keep a, c, and d and cut out b, e, and f because of “high cost”. This is not surprising.

Well run school districts have the “green” goals and promises incorporated into the building contracts and in the event the buildings fail to perform as specified and paid for the architects and contractors must fix it or pay heavy penalties and fines for not meeting contracted goals.

This technology is no longer new, it’s well understood and proven, over 40 years old. Global corporations are saving billions worldwide because it is economically good business. Why is that? Because they demand and get the best and write it into the construction contracts. Major corporations only do this because the higher initial investment is more than repaid over years of reduced operating costs. It’s the math, nothing political about it.

Sure, there are some failures, but the voluntary adoption of “green” building materials and designs by both individuals, governments, and corporations speaks for itself. The school systems you mention need some good legal representation.

In the late 1800′s folks fought electrification of the schools because it was “too expensive” and “too dangerous” – by 1920 such attitudes were laughable. “Green” construction is mature and well established and if it is unsuccessful the problem is likely a legal one, not a technological one – and certainly not a political one.

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