Similar to environmental value, sustainability as it relates to economic value can be defined as using resources in ways that are efficient and will provide immediate needs as well as long-term benefits. The only difference is that the “resources” in this case are monetary in nature.
As it relates to design, economic value is about more than just direct cost savings- i.e. first costs and operating costs. Indirect benefits, such as employee productivity, building attraction, and increased asset value, also have a significant impact on economic value. For newly constructed buildings that obtained LEED certification, building value increased an average of 10.9%, and occupancy increased 6.4%. 1 Green buildings attract, and this leads to more successful projects economically.
The ease or efficiency with which a building or project can be used
Design can make places easier or harder to use. A confusing workspace, for example, can create frustration and difficulty, but smart design can improve efficiency, leading to greater satisfaction and lower costs.
Does the layout make the place as easy as possible to use? Is wayfinding easy?
The costs or returns associated with people working in and around a building or project
The built environment’s impact on people can have economic consequences, accounting for some 90 percent of workplace costs,2 for example. An office space that makes workers sick leads to lost time, but a building that promotes health and well-being can improve productivity, absenteeism, and turnover in offices, as well as patient stays in hospitals, rents in residential, and sales in retail.
Does the design use good daylight, air, and views to promote comfort? Does the layout improve efficiency?
The initial investment associated with the construction or completion of a building or project
Conventional wisdom suggests that high-performance buildings cost more, but the latest research shows that this isn’t the case. If smart strategies are incorporated from the beginning of the development process, they can actually save on construction costs.
Does the project use smart passive design strategies to avoid additional costs (such as heating, cooling, and insulation) to keep occupants comfortable?
The ongoing costs associated with maintaining a building or project after occupation
Studies show that the costs of operating “green” buildings are lower—by 13.6 percent,3 on average. The long-term savings can be significantly greater than the building’s construction cost.
What are typical local energy costs? How long will it take for energy reduction savings to pay for any additional initial costs? What strategies can help reduce maintenance costs (e.g., through longer-lasting materials and systems)?
The additional value in perception and public relations that results from environmental sustainability
High-performance buildings are more valuable than their direct tangible costs, as their market perception can add significant asset value. Green buildings have been proven to enjoy higher property value, sales, rents, and occupancy rates.4
What additional value is brought to the project through green design? How can more sustainable design reduce the risk of obsolescence, and how can this be economically valued?