Cost-Justifying Green Buildings to Skeptics – GreenBuild 2017

by | Nov 14, 2017 | Economics, Sustainability, Uncategorized

One of the most highly-attended sessions at GreenBuild 2017, entitled “Cost-Justifying Green Buildings to Skeptics”, was moderated by Emma Stewart, USGBC Director and Chair of the Advisory Council, with presentations by Anthony Bernheim of The Allen Group, LLC,  responsible for program management at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1, and Jack Rizzo, a Managing Director at Prologis responsible for development and construction of logistics centers globally.

The major takeaway? That data combined with economic analysis is helping to quantify the value of more sustainable design in convincing dollar terms.

For Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport, triple bottom line cost benefit analysis (TBL-CBA) became part of a $2.4Billon program, developed from scratch, to integrate sustainability into terminal and baggage-handling designs. It helped to justify choices between window glazing, motorized shades, interior landscaping, green roofs, ground source heat pumps and radiant heating and cooling for the best solution to human comfort and energy efficiency based on the net present value (NPV) and benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of dollar returns over a 50 year study period.

For Prologis, data and economic analysis conducted on 20 Prologis logistics centers making up 6.2 million sf demonstrated that every incremental dollar spent on sustainable design generated $19 of benefit – $9.40 to the tenant via energy savings, improved productivity and reduced absenteeism, and $9.63 to the community via reduced greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollutants, conserving fresh water, recycling waste and sourcing regional materials during construction.

You can download the Powerpoint presentation here.

However, the real challenge to justifying green building was driven home during the audience interactive exercise, conducted following the formal presentation, where attendees at each table were asked to assume the perspectives of owners, designers and engineers around a fictitious project and to role-play the questions and concerns that might arise around justifying sustainable design. The discussion that followed underscored the realization that it is always important to “walk in the other person’s shoes” – to understand the challenges from all perspectives and be prepared for questions that drill into the data and analysis for more detail. Tools, like Autocase, that provide a breakdown of the analysis by stakeholder impact and provide documentation behind all the numbers, help to bridge the gap.  We are all part of a community committed to a building a better worldso a well-rounded view of the choices we make is critical to achieving success.




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