Green makes too much sense for some people to ignore it. Others resolutely refute it. Folks on the fringe go so far as to lump it with such conspiracies as fluoridated water, fake moon landings and President Obama’s birthplace. In short, “green” has become a politically charged word. That’s unfortunate because, at its core, green represents a commitment to the future.
One way to take green out of the political arena is to regard it as conservation: of energy, building materials and natural resources. Doing so leaves the only realistic objection to green as added cost. Some estimates run as high as 25 percent extra.
You’re starting from scratch rather than retrofitting. Green building methods cost less the earlier they’re incorporated into projects. Green building consultant Gregory Kats estimates that spending 3 percent more in the design phase could reduce construction costs by as much as 10 percent. Waiting until your home is half built to start adding green features will result, if nothing else, in change orders, just as any mid-project modifications would. Also, siting the home before construction begins lets you take advantage of passive solar heating, which adds virtually nothing to the home’s cost but can reduce heating bills between 30 to 50 percent, not just initially but for years to come.
Much of green’s additional expense goes for specific sustainable features, such as photovoltaic systems, which ultimately return more than their initial cost in the form of utility savings and increased property values. An analysis by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for the State of California Sustainable Building Task Force confirms “that minimal increases in upfront costs of about 2 percent to support green design would, on average, result in lifecycle savings of 20 percent of total construction costs — more than 10 times the initial investment.”
The greatest variable in the cost of green is the learning curve for architects and builders. A builder’s first green home might cost 3 to 5 percent more than conventional construction because of the extra time spent to figure things out. By the third house, the builder should be familiar enough that no extra time or cost is needed.
As an investment, green can yield a return of up to $71 per square foot over a period of 20 years, according to the construction consulting firm Davis Langdon, based on its study, “The Cost of Green Revisited.” It found that the cost of green is negligible or as low as 1 or 2 percent, depending on how many green features are added.
So, the practical approach to green is to view its benefits as immediate and its payback as long term. Since most homeowners live in their log home anywhere from 15 to 30 years, green is a smart choice.
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