Those of us involved in green buildings for any length of time know intuitively that, when done correctly, green building save money and improve user satisfaction. I have requested energy bills from past projects we have completed and have generally been pleased with the results. Interviews with users are almost always positive and antidotes about no longer having allergy like symptoms or constant headaches since moving into the new facility are common. I am always thrilled then when good empirical studies come out showing real and tangible benefits to green building.
The University of Notre Dame just published a study conclusively linking operational savings and productivity gains in green designed and built projects over conventional projects. From the report abstract:
“Analyses revealed three key finings[Sic]: (a) environmental practices are positively related to an increase of household consumer business, (b) environmental practices had a stronger impact on consumer accounts than business accounts, and (c) utility costs were lower for green facilities.”
What is unique about this study is how comprehensive it was. Using a large sample size of bank branches (494 locations) the researchers were able to test against the issues and differences between green facilities that make these studies so difficult. e.g. size, age, locations, type, management…
The numbers are impressive with green projects raking in over $3million more in consumer deposit balances per LEED facility per year over other properties. They also had more total accounts and larger balances of loans.
A press release with more breakdowns and the financial benefits of green building can be found here:
That’s good news for our forward thinking clients who are currently building or thinking about building a green building but what about other sustainability efforts? Does it make sense for companies to engage in larger sustainability initiatives like Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and other intensive programs?
The answer appears to be yes. Another little known school, the Harvard School of Business, studied 180 companies over 18 years and concluded the firms that engaged in sustainability outperformed their peers who did not.
What really caught my attention about the Harvard report was the importance of forward thinking and commitment to strategy. Sustainability is journey; finding the vision to take an organization into the future by boldly imagining the necessary radical transformations required to stay relevant is a rare skill.
Of course there are things that are hard to accurately measure but whose value is undeniable. Years ago, after giving a presentation to a group of painting contractors, I was talking to a gentleman who was thanking me for pushing for the low-VOC water based paints. He showed me his arms and told me that for the first time the sores he typically had from working with harsh solvents had healed after working on one of our LEED projects. It’s hard to put numbers to impacts like those but I’m OK with just knowing they exist.