INSIGHTFUL SOLUTIONS

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The Cost of Green Building Maintenance

Posted by Steve DeBusk on May 19, 2015

Do green buildings cost less to operate? A study conducted by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory says yes.

After examining a year’s worth of data from 22 LEED federal buildings across the country, and then comparing their maintenance costs to those of non-LEED buildings, the results indicated that LEED buildings cost 19% less to maintain.

It comes as no surprise that LEED buildings in the study were also found to consume 25% less energy and 11% less water (which translates to reduced operating expenses); they also produced 34% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and had 27% higher occupant satisfaction levels.

Although all of the participating facilities were government buildings, they made up quite a diverse group:

  • Location: From Seattle, WA, to Rockville, MD, and clear down to Jacksonville, FL
  • Age: Built between 1900 and 2007
  • Number of occupants: 45 to 5,360
  • ENERGY STAR scores: 50 to 96
  • Square footage: 52,240 to 2.34 million

The study evaluated actual – not modeled – building performance metrics in these 22 facilities, including operating data, results from building occupant surveys, information from facilities managers, and data uncovered during building walkthroughs. Once all of this information was collected, it was then compared to national averages for U.S. commercial buildings.

From basic water- and energy-saving initiatives, such as advanced HVAC and lighting controls, low-flow fixtures, and cool roofs, to more involved green building solutions like photovoltaic panels, increased exposure to daylight, rainwater harvesting, and geothermal, each building incorporated a variety of sustainability and green building features based on its location, age, and size.

The study also uncovered a valuable lesson: Operations and maintenance costs are at their lowest when sustainability is integrated into every aspect of the building, from waste and recycling to green cleaning and grounds maintenance.

Thanks to the study, GSA determined that its commitment to green building practices is in fact paying off. The federal government’s sustainably designed buildings use less energy and water, emit less carbon dioxide, cost less to maintain and operate, and have more satisfied occupants.

How do your building’s operation and maintenance costs compare to national averages? Do you evaluate these numbers regularly?

Photo Credit: AboutMovies

Steve DeBusk is global energy solutions manager for the window film division of Eastman Chemical Company. Steve has 30 years of experience in energy efficiency. He is a Certified Energy Manager, a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, and a Certified Sustainable Development Professional. Follow Steve on Twitter @greenbldgs.

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