New research challenges the perception that sustainability costs

New research challenges the perception that sustainable buildings are necessarily more costly to construct, by presenting the actual costs and savings associated with a wide range of sustainable building strategies.

The research team from Sweett Group and BRE applied cost data from real construction projects to three case study buildings – an office, secondary school and community healthcare centre – to produce detailed capital and operational cost information.

Their report, Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback, presents the actual costs of a range of individual sustainability strategies, and the additional costs (if any) of achieving various levels of overall building sustainability. In addition it reveals the associated payback to be gained from reduced utility costs. The study investigated the:

  • capital costs of measures to improve sustainability, including readily usable no or low cost measures, along with those that must be built into the project early on to minimise their costs,
  • capital costs of achieving overall levels of building sustainability, using the costs associated with gaining Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent ratings under the BREEAM sustainability rating scheme,
  • life cycle costs of operating buildings, focusing on energy and water consumption – the study found that specifying sustainability measures during the design and procurement stages can bring cost savings without adding significantly, or at all, to upfront costs.

The researchers concluded that achieving the lower BREEAM ratings can incur little or no additional cost. Targeting the higher BREEAM ratings, and so more challenging levels of sustainability, incurs some additional cost but this is typically less than 2%. The investigation of life cycle operational costs showed that any additional cost can be paid back within 2–5 years through utility savings.

Yetunde Abdul of BRE, one of the report’s authors, said:

“This study adds to a growing body of work on the costs and value of sustainability. It provides further strong evidence that a sustainable approach need not add significantly to building costs. And, where there are additional capital costs, these can be repaid relatively quickly through the reduced costs of operating the building.”

Adam Mactavish, Operations Director – Management Consulting, for Sweett Group said:

“This report provides a practical resource to help developers and their project teams target and then deliver buildings that meet high standards of environmental performance”

Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback (Ref FB63) is available at www.brebookshop.com.

Ref: 52285, 13669 & 66256