With an ongoing emphasis being placed on sustainability, it’s good to know the facts before shying away from potentially higher upfront cost premiums. In Skanska’s current projects, we are using resources that are better for the environment while providing a net cost savings in as few as three years.
Skanska’s Jimmy Mitchell, senior mechanical estimator and LEED expert, was recently featured on the Commercial Real Estate radio show, offering insight on sustainability and how it impacts profits. Here are three tactics you can use to increase sustainability while decreasing costs:
A net zero policy can significantly reduce water and energy bills
A net-zero energy building is one where the amount of energy used by the building is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on site. For a non-profit organization or college campus, Mitchell says in many cases it makes sense to invest upfront in order to significantly decrease water and energy bills over a significantly longer period of time. For high-density districts, Mitchell advises exploring the benefits of scaling to an area-wide system for systems like chilled water.
The Bertschi School Science Classroom Addition
The Skanska-built Bertschi School Science Classroom Addition in Seattle is net-zero water and energy, and it has been certified under the rigorous Living Building Challenge program. Net zero is becoming more popular, especially for institutions that wish to remain in their buildings for several years. Mitchell said net zero is a trend that will continue to gain traction and lower in cost to achieve.
You don’t have to rebuild to make a difference
If net zero or LEED certification is not in your short-term budget, there are still small improvements you can make to significantly reduce your energy consumption. Installing LED lighting is an easy way to cut costs, as LED’s initial costs are becoming much more affordable. And when you factor in a power cost of one-eighth the expense of regular lighting, LEDs often pay for themselves very early in their lifecycles.
For office buildings, plug load outlets can be installed, which shut off plugged-in appliances at night. This automatic tool can help you save on power bills. In the case of more in-depth renovations, such as replacing mechanical air handling units in older buildings, utility bills can be decreased by as much as 50 percent post-renovation.
Tactics like these also remove a variable that can limit green cost savings: occupant behavior. Efficient lighting fixtures and off-hour conservation can save money in ways aligned with existing behaviors.
Paybacks can happen in as little as three years
Most people can see the fruits of their investments with a three- to seven-year payback for many sustainable improvements, and a 20-year payback for geothermal or solar implementation – a relatively short timeframe for a building intended to last 50 to 100 years.
We renovated our flagship office in the Empire State Building to meet LEED Platinum certification.
Skanska USA recently renovated our flagship office on the Empire State Building’s 32nd floor. Raised access flooring is one of the highlights of the space, which allows for better air control by cooling the bottom five- to six feet of the floor. A 4.7 percent premium was spent to go LEED Platinum in the space, but among the results was that electricity use decreased 57 percent. The office saw its investment paid back in less than five years.
By implementing these sustainable improvements, you can feel good about being a part of the green building initiative while enjoying the costs savings that these efforts can provide.
“In the future of performance contracting, if you reduce energy and reduce costs, you make more money,” Mitchell said. “Efficiency drives profits.”