Vision for Green, Factors for Success

Many senior leaders of companies, cities, and nonprofits really do understand the tremendous benefits that sustainable (green) practices bring to a design and construction project; but bringing other decision makers along in the process can sometimes be a formidable challenge.

As our firm has shepherded business owners and senior executives through the processes of green planning, design and construction, we’ve discovered three consistent elements that bring success to the project — and make it enjoyable as well. They are; dispel the myths, share the facts, and engage everyone in the process.

Dispel the MYTHS
It is still too common to hear the inaccurate message that green construction must cost more. Building owners who automatically reject green principles on the assumption that there will be higher costs will be missing out on great opportunities. It is possible for them to be higher; but if the design and construction professionals are sustainability experts that utilize an integrated design process, they can create exceptional green buildings for less cost than with conventional construction methods. Sustainable construction costs should be less, if approached wisely, and then provide an added benefit of lowering the ongoing operating costs for the entire life of a facility.

There is a mountain of evidence that supports these claims; but we did our own fact checking. Our goal was to disprove or verify the green-costs-more-myth by looking directly and objectively at the data. In numerous cost comparisons, the data demonstrated that our highly sustainable projects were delivered at a price significantly below those utilizing conventional design and construction practices. In fact, these facilities were delivered at 12 percent below the peer group cost for some industries and between 25 and 29 percent for others.

Share the FACTS
One of the primary goals for any building project should be to create a facility, which minimizes the impact on the environment, embodies social responsibility in the community, positively contributes to one’s bottom line and produces a productive, healthy, and effective place for those who will occupy the space. Who wouldn’t get excited about discovering solutions that simultaneously meet all of those objectives?

It’s important to share previous successes that will ultimately make an impact. In one recently completed project that received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, 99.75 percent of all building materials from the responsible deconstruction of the previous facility were recycled or reused. Over 8.6 tons of building material was either reused or recycled. So, not only was considerably less waste sent to the ever-growing landfill, but the overall expenses to the project were reduced.

In addition, numerous employee studies have demonstrated that a sustainable building has a positive impact on employee recruiting and retention. Also, many companies have found that improvements in air quality, lighting, and other high performance (green) features reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. These types of facts should all be shared with the decision makers during the planning phase so they understand the implications of the choices they make.

Engage the TEAM
Once people see the errors in the myths and the benefits that are provided with a sustainable project, it’s much easier to attain their buy-in. Collaboration and integration are critical for ensuring that building owners receive a facility that operates effectively and efficiently. In order to maximize the rewards of sustainable (green) design and construction, it’s imperative to select a project team at the inception that includes knowledgeable planners, architects, construction managers, expert consultants and other project-specific specialists.

This team should not only maintain continuous communication as a group, but also engage with focus groups and collaborate with key stakeholders and the broader community. We’ve consistently seen that such expanded interaction and communication provides a platform for taking diverse ideas and melding them together for a successful building project. It provides a vehicle for all involved parties to look, with the greatest peripheral vision, for environmentally friendly solutions from the very beginning, while also garnering support for the project.

Every project team should also consider who they can partner with to discover win/win situations. For some owners, it may be sharing parking lots, or creating collaborative spaces that can be used by the entire community.

Move your Vision-¦and Enjoy It!
When you want to take the next step with your vision for sustainable design and construction, be sure to utilize the three aforementioned factors. Then, you’ll find an enhanced triple bottom line: higher quality for the building users, a positive impact on the environment, and both lower initial costs and greater long-term operational cost savings!

Miles Girouard ([email protected]) is a LEED Accredited Professional and the director of architectural services for Hoffman LLC, a Wisconsin-based firm that integrates a single-source of responsibility for planning, architecture, and construction management with a commitment to holistic sustainable design and delivery.