Is Sustainability Expensive?

A popular question which is raised in the construction industry as of late is that cost associated with planning, building, and maintaining a project throughout all stages of it’s lifetime are raised to an enormous degree in the aim of making buildings sustainable. The construction industry appears to be dragging its heels when it comes to standardising green building efforts, under the presumption that dividends increase due to increased sustainability effort. In matters of civil engineering in Flintshire, the whole of Wales, and even the UK at large, this doesn’t have to be the case.

There is an increasing doubt in the construction industry as to whether or not creating green buildings, meeting sustainability certifications and generally paying more mind to resources even affects costs. While indeed in the past scare tactics have been used to turn construction firms and civil engineers away from sustainable building methods, recent research has brought evidence to light that directly contradicts the sentiment that incorporating sustainability and green building means additional cost.

Research by the Sweett Group and BRE published in 2014 applies cost data from actual projects (an office, a school, and a community healthcare centre, respectively) into three case studies. A range of individual sustainability strategies were employed with all three projects, and additional cost directly associated with sustainability was recorded – as well as money saved in the effort as a direct result of using sustainable materials. The result of this study has indicated that the identification and specification of sustainability measures during design and procurement stages can bring cost savings – not incur additional upfront cost.

Achieving the lower BREEAM sustainability ratings on all three case studies incurred no additional cost. Targeting higher BREEAM ratings upon all three case studies incurred an additional cost of 2%. It should be mentioned that this 2% was paid back in 2 years through the building’s utility savings, a direct result of sustainable building.

There are some of us that would state that research evidence and case studies, while sounding promising, mean nothing. How does a school, an office and a community health centre being built somewhere in the UK mean they’re going to meet dividends? A lot of it relies upon investors.
Sustainable buildings appear to be very sought after commodities by most investors today. Real estate investors and developers are using sustainability to improve the value of their assets increasingly. The road ahead seems to be clear -- Sustainability issues must be part of everyday business.

Whether that business is located in Wales, England, or even further across the world – it’s very clear. Companies that fail to recognise this will be at a major disadvantage to companies that do.