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Green building skeptics sometimes argue that it's difficult or even impossible to build green without paying a big cost premium. But real-world examples show that you can complete a LEED-certified green building project for an average of 2 percent more in upfront costs, and sometimes even below standard market construction costs. Plus, any extra first costs you pay can be recovered through faster lease-up rates, rental premiums and increased market valuation. And by making experienced green building professionals a part of your team and learning to control costs, you can escape paying any green premium at all as early as your second green building project.

A 2004 study by Davis Langdon Adamson, a construction cost-planning and management company, found that the first costs of constructing a sustainable building tend to match or only slightly exceed those of comparable non-green buildings. The study, Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budgeting Methodology (click here to see the report, in pdf), measured the square-foot construction costs of 61 buildings seeking certification under the LEED green building rating system against those of buildings of similar type that did not aim for sustainability. Taking into account a range of construction factors including climate, location, market conditions and local standards, the study found that for many of the green projects, pursuing LEED certification had little or no budgetary impact.

The study's findings also underline that incorporating and integrating green features into a project early is critical to the success of any green building project. "It is the choices made during design which will ultimately determine whether a building can be sustainable, not the budget set," the report concluded.

In addition, in order to accurately evaluate the impact of green building on your budget, it's important to look beyond first costs. Increasingly, architects and procurement specialists are using "life-cycle assessments" (LCA) to evaluate and quantify the economic and environmental costs and benefits of materials and products over their lives. LCA analysis methods are becoming more standardized and tools such as LCie are emerging to provide comparable product-level evaluations.

Click here for links to LCA analysis resources »

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