Guest Blog, Balfour Beatty: When does going green save you green – as in the color of money?

Date: May 12, 2015

By: Emily Violette, PE, LEED, AP, Senior Manager, Energy COE, Balfour Beatty

Recycle Building

In today’s world of popular terms, “Green Building” has gained a lot of momentum, and there are plenty of certifications out there to help guide any owner through the process of going green, for their facility’s performance. Whether it is LEED, Green Globes or NAHB, most of these processes lay out performance targets, checklists and standards that can help us drive our building footprint to become better stewards of the environment. But what about the other meaning of green, as in the color of money, or the dollars and cents it takes to go green and be able to live to tell the story?

Green Building Return on Investment, or the price of going green, has likewise become a hot topic in today’s mainstream. Does the certification pay back? Will we be so knee deep in up-front costs for construction that our operations will never catch up to meet its budget? In order to maintain a balanced approach between the performance and the cost of going green, it is critical to keep in mind just that – what is the total ownership value of a facility going green? If this is not balanced, then we will all struggle to live to tell the story of a successful Green Building because the pain (or unexpected cost) over the life cycle of the facility won’t go away.

Begin with the end in mind – When approaching the notion of a Green Building, beginning with the end in mind will help determine what balance between performance and cost looks like. An example of this that has recently been a hot topic of conversation in our office is, “what does a tenant looks for in an apartment?”

Is it savings in energy cost? – Probably not high on their radar when looking for a place to live…

Is it low maintenance work? – Well, that might be nice, but since they aren’t managing maintenance, again, this might not be high on their radar, although it might relate to the cost of their rent…

Now… what about included amenities? – Ah…. Now you’re talking!

What if we told the story of a building that includes Green features in the energy performance and maintenance column which helps us capture savings in operating dollars, and that these dollars are being re-invested into amenities that the tenant does want in their apartment complex? I could argue that this not only brings positive attention to the current “going green” push for energy savings, but also emphasizes that the savings is actually bringing re-investment “going green” dollars into an even more relevant trend that resonates with our tenants, which is resiliency, or “Live, Work, Play” communities. The trick to building green while keeping return on investment in mind is accurately defining the value that is offered and captured as seen in the eyes of the end user, and then balancing these values to effectively deliver a successful story for all who are involved in a project.

Here at Balfour Beatty Construction, we are not afraid to spend our dollars studying and learning from our clients about various value drivers for both the performance and cost of “going green.” We understand that if we don’t balance these values, we will only be doing a disservice to our clients and the end users of any facility we encounter. Whether it is an LED lighting replacement to brighten an atrium and cut cost in half or choosing a variable refrigerant flow HVAC system versus the traditional heat pump split system to save space and operating cost, if we do not have a conversation with our clients on what the value is for the end users then our story will remain in silos, leaving our message of being good stewards of the environment at a loss to the potential impact we could have.

Over the last 6 months, our teams have been relentlessly working with clients to determine what the magic mix is that makes a successful “going green” mission. These engagements have included both workshop and presentation sessions with clients, CMAA and AIA in the southeast region of the United States, SmartStart kick-off sessions with clients on projects across the country, as well as ongoing discussions internally to share best practices and thoughts as this popular catch phrase continues to gain momentum.

To learn more about how we at Balfour Beatty approach “Green Building,” or Total Life Cycle Cost Analysis, contact Emily Violette, Senior Manager, Energy COE.  We can navigate a conversation that helps us all get a clearer understand of what our balance of values are, for ourselves and our clients.

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Emily Violette, PE, LEED AP, Balfour Beatty Energy Center of Excellence 

Emily brings 20 years of experience across the full spectrum of the design and construction field. Over the years, her career has developed from the knowledge of an architectural engineering degree at Penn State University to working through the experiences of mechanical engineering design, commissioning, energy program management and sustainability in the commercial building industry. This range of topics has brought her to current focus on overall building performance and total ownership cost in construction, and how both can be balanced to deliver an exceptional total value impact on the work that we do.