The Economics of Environmentalism
By Lynda Weatherman
Ten years ago, if you heard the word “green,” you likely wouldn’t have thought of building design and construction. In today’s climate, the word “green” immediately brings to mind an entire movement to design and build more sustainable buildings that have a smaller environmental footprint. Phrases like “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “certified,” “sustainable” and “environmental responsibility” have all become catchphrases in a trend that has swept the architecture, engineering and construction fields.
This move toward more sustainable facilities is impacting corporate relocations and expansions for another kind of green. Going green ultimately means saving green. In a competitive economic development landscape, the availability of facilities that cost less to operate are a major selling point to companies looking for the greatest impact on its bottom line.
The Numbers Behind the Color
Green buildings have been proven to use 25 percent less energy and reduce operating costs by 19 percent in comparison to non-certified buildings. In fact, owners of green buildings report that their ROI improved by 19.2 percent. There are also a variety of benefits and incentives available for green buildings including tax credits, grants, expedited building permits, and reductions in fees.
Research has found that companies that adopt LEED facilities experience higher labor productivity – an average of 16 percent higher – than firms based in non-green buildings. There are nearly 2.5 million employees currently working in LEED buildings across the nation. They were found to be “more productive and engaged in their work” than those working in non-green facilities. Not to mention the overall preservation of natural resources putting less of a burden on the community.
Today’s green facilities have become more than a valuable asset; they are helping to decrease operating expenses and produce happier work environments.
Taking the Local LEED
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the national authority that is responsible for certifying and ranking buildings by varying sustainability levels, Brevard County is home to over 20 LEED registered buildings.
The region has a number of options when it comes to sustainable facilities. For relocating and expanding companies, several local showpieces provide inspiration.
A shining example is the Harris Technology Center (HTC), a 464,000 square-foot, ultra-modern, highly sustainable facility in Palm Bay built for Harris Corporation. At the time of completion, the massive facility ranked as both the largest office facility by square-footage as well as the largest LEED office facility in Brevard County. Executive jet maker Embraer is also making conservation an important centerpiece of its newest Engineering and Technology Center (ETC) in Melbourne as it too was recently named a LEED certified facility. Outside the corporate world, the City of Palm Bay’s City Hall has also been designed as a green facility.
Local firms specializing in sustainable design include BRPH, RS+H, TLC Engineering for Architecture, and more. Both the HTC and ETC were designed by Melbourne-based global architecture and engineering firm BRPH. These sustainable experts often act as educators, showing clients a myriad of facility possibilities and the projected cost savings. It is this level of expertise that is making facilities more efficient for companies.
Making a Difference at the Regional Level
While the traditional LEED program focuses on making buildings more sustainable, one building at a time, the next wave of sustainable efforts is coming in the form of entire cities getting involved.
Central Florida is one of ten regions to join the City Energy Project, a three-year initiative to improve energy efficiency in buildings. Mayors from areas across the U.S. announced that they are working together to significantly boost energy efficiency throughout buildings in their cities that could lower energy bills by nearly $1 billion annually. The program started in 2014 and is a joint initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).
Working together, through economic development, design leadership and sustainable awareness, our community is creating facilities where companies can not only work smarter but also reduce their environmental impact.
Only through prioritizing and getting clear on the things that are most important will you then discover what it is to want – and have – it all.
Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.