One of the key issues that plagues green architecture proponents worldwide is how the cost of green building compares to conventional construction. After all, if a green building is more expensive than a standard one, what incentives do the developers and moneymakers have to go green? Despite what you may think, thanks to a new study by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, we can safely say that building an environmentally-friendly building is not as expensive as commonly thought.

The report, titled ‘Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities’ makes the case that most people tend to over estimate the true cost of a green building. After surveying 1400 professionals involved in the survey, they show that most people believed the costs of going green were 300% higher than what they really are, or about 17% above conventional construction costs. The reality is that the green markup is about 5% over conventional buildings, and may even be less than that in some cases.

The survey also found that most people tend to underestimate the greenhouse emissions put out by buildings. The truth is that buildings are responsible for over 40% of total emissions. Does it worry anyone else that most building industry professionals believe that the impact of buildings to the environment is considerably less than what it really is?

The report also puts forward strategies for the building community as a whole to increase their energy efficiency and diminish their footprint on the environment. They recommend creating zero-energy buildings (buildings that produce as much energy as they consume), increase the education of building professionals, introduce policies to increase interest in greener technologies, and engage in simple measures such as good design. The report also suggests that that no matter how many energy-saving devices are built into the building, changing the behavior of building occupants, and making them understand the implications of wasting energy, is an important step in making the built environment as green as possible. The bottom line:

Buildings account for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions – AND – making a building “green” costs just 5% more in construction costs.

You do the math.. Can we afford NOT to make all of our buildings green?

+ Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities @ WBCSD