There’s a perception among some builders, architects and consumers that green buildings are expensive. No doubt some are, but it isn’t a given that environmentally friendly products and features have to cost a lot. Some cost the same or even less than traditional products. Depending on the product, there may also be a net long-term savings from reduced operating, maintenance and replacement costs.
For example, high-efficiency heating systems and proper insulation could potentially cost more up front, but save substantial money over time for a net savings. Likewise, durable materials may pay for themselves several times over since they don’t need to be replaced as frequently. A case in point is long-wearing paint. Another – certainly close to my heart – is composite decking. Depending on the manufacturer, wood-plastic composite materials last substantially longer than solid wood, and are made from recycled materials. Because of higher performance, the initial cost may be somewhat greater, but technological advances are bringing the costs more in line with solid wood. As with all products, check with the manufacturer to see what the full range of green attributes are.
These types of short and long-term cost issues are addressed through Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA). For a good overview of the topic, see the National Institute of Building Sciences’ “Whole Building Design Guide” Web site.