<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Can green buildings save the planet?


Credit: sxc.hu

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With a carbon price coming in, there will be more pressure on companies and developers to create green buildings. The property sector accounts for approximately 19 per cent of total energy consumption in Australia or 24 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why the government set up the Green Building Fund.

But the alarming truth is that green buildings can’t reduce Australia’s emissions on their own. For that we need a lifestyle change. And that would require really radical solutions from the government, something we are unlikely to see from this mob.

Certainly, there’s lots of evidence showing green buildings can actually deliver good results. According to one study, green buildings are almost twice as energy efficient compared to the average office buildings. They are also significantly more water efficient.

Some more research has found that in green buildings, sick days are down 39 per cent and even found the firm's secretaries are typing nine per cent faster in the new building and with greater accuracy. HC Online says that green buildings reduce sick leave and can improve worker productivity and health. According to the research, these gains are between two and 10 per cent per worker. Also, a 2008 Deloitte survey of companies that had undergone at least one green building retrofit in the US found that 93 per cent of respondents found it easier to attract talent after their renovation, with 81 per cent reporting greater employee retention.

Not only that. Green buildings are also likely to be a better investment proposition. As I explained here, a green building results in lower energy costs which drives up the value quite significantly. As UBS senior property analyst John Freedman explains, a lot of it is driven by what tenants want. Government buildings are now no less than four stars, they won’t go into anything less. The same goes for corporations like banks. So if you’re a building owner and you don’t have a green building, you won’t access to something like half the market. And the biggest risk for a building owner is an empty building because it’s not producing any rental revenue.

The problem is that green buildings are just tools, they won’t actually save the planet. American architects Randolph Croxton, Joshua Prince-Ramus and Tuomas Toivonen say that green buildings alone are not sustainable, it takes a change in lifestyle.

They can’t be sustainable if their occupants drive long distances every day, the energy they consume is carbon-intensive, their technology is too complicated to use or too difficult to maintain, their impact stops at the property line, they deny the use of pre-existing infrastructure or building fabric and they are conceived in isolation from larger, systemic environmental change.

The only way green buildings will have any impact is if we change our lifestyles and migrate toward more populated, more diverse, more sustainable cities. Only by changing behavior and addressing issues suburban sprawl and carbon intensive lifestyles, can we reach ecological balance. Green buildings should be just part of the package.