Environmental Protection

Designers, Builders Continue to Support Green Construction

The 4th Annual Green Building Survey by Allen Matkins, Constructive Technologies Group (CTG) and the Green Building Insider found a large majority of respondents continue to strongly endorse green building (96 percent in 2007, 93.5 percent in 2008 and 92.3 percent in 2009) despite the recession.

The survey, completed by more than 1,600 design and construction professionals from across the nation, addressed current attitudes toward green building, its risks, costs, certification processes and trends.

Support for LEED1 certification slipped 11 percent in 2008 and 4.7 percent in 2009 to 62 percent. Cost is a major driver for green building in this economic downturn, with the gap between support for green construction and LEED certification growing over the past two years. Nonetheless, the level of support for LEED certification remains high, compared to the US Green Building Council’s original mission statement: LEED was launched as a market transformation tool, with a goal of representing the top 25 percent of all construction projects.

While the recession challenged the volume of green construction, it pushed projects to look for financial advantage: Saving energy and other operating expenses was the No. 1 reason for building green projects.

Green building is perceived to have greater construction risks than non-green construction, despite the fact that LEED-mandated building tests known as commissioning actually reduce the risk of building system failure. According to the survey, the top strategies to reduce the risks of green building are:

  • retaining green consultants (such as LEED-AP consultants),
  • measurement and re-commissioning,
  • periodic testing, and
  • contractual risk shifting.

More than half of all respondents indicated that a LEED Gold rating increased project costs by 4 percent or more, while nearly 30 percent of respondents reported the costs of LEED Gold rating at significantly lower than 4 percent. Possible explanations for the difference in reported cost premiums include the variety of local codes and professional experience in certain regions that raise the minimum standards close to LEED Gold standards, and the varying degree of difficulty in achieving a LEED Gold rating on different building types, such as hotels vs. office buildings.

The purchase of carbon offsets, which is largely voluntary today, hovered near 7 percent. "We do not expect a significant change in carbon offsets unless mandatory carbon mitigation programs are adopted at the state or federal level," said Bryan Jackson, chair of Allen Matkins’ Green and Sustainable Construction Practice Group and Adjunct Professor at USC teaching Green and Sustainable Construction.

Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP is a California-based law firm.

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