Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are Green Public Buildings Costly?

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

With environmental concerns gaining importance, any new municipal buildings should be designed with the intent to be certified as LEED Gold or, if possible, Platinum, the highest Energy efficiency rating available.  A 2003 paper by the US Green Building Council lists the additional cost for building green buildings as follows:
  1. Silver - 0% to 3.5%
  2. Gold - 0.5% to 5.0%
  3. Platinum - 4.5% to 8.5%
See , page 3 & 4.  This document says the cost of obtaining these certifications is going down as designers and builders gain experience.  The cost of the paperwork to get certified is $10K to $60K so most of the incremental cost is in materials and construction.

The American Institute of Architects makes an annual Top Ten list of energy efficient buildings.  Here:  Can these be done cost competitively with traditional construction?  Here are some winners built at a low to moderate cost:

Marin County Day School, completed, 2010 LEED Platinum:  68% new, 32% renovation.  Total size 33,740 sf (23.1K new) at a total cost of $12.5M = $371/sf.  Click on photo to enlarge:

Chandler City Hall, Chandler, AZ - 187K Sq. Ft. Total Project Cost at time of completion (Oct. 2010) = $47M = $251/sf. LEED Gold. The city of Chandler rented facilities for years while it saved up money to fund the new city hall so it did not need to issue any debt (bonds).  Click on the images below to make them bigger.

White Tank Pulic Library and Nature Center (Leed Platinum).  29K sq.ft. total = 25K sf library + 4K sf. nature center.  $8M = $275/sq.ft.

Lake View Public Library (City of Los Angeles) - 2003 - Construction cost = $4.4M for 10,700 sq. ft. = $411/sq. ft.  Adjusting for 3% annual inflation over 11 years gives $411 * (1.03^11 = 1.38) = $569/sf. The photos below show this attractive library.  LEED Platinum. Click on the photos to make them larger.

More info on this building at:

These few examples show that with coordinated pre-planning, beautiful and energy efficient buildings can be built at a low to moderate cost.  There are many more out there listed at sites like:

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