“Going green” has made its way to the construction industry and it’s changing the way we build things and the way property owners approach new construction projects. As this is still a fairly new concept to the industry, it’s not uncommon for property owners and investors to have a few questions about green construction. We wanted to take some time to address some of the more common questions we hear.

What are the standards for a green building?

There are no technical standards set by the EPA or government bodies for a green building, it’s more of a philosophy of construction. The general idea is to build with materials and methods that reduce the need for non-renewable materials and energy consumption. However, there are several independent organizations that have started setting standards. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is among the more notable of these organizations.

Is green construction expensive?

This is somewhat complicated to answer. Yes, it does cost more to build a green building, but these extra costs are typically recouped over the life of the building by way of lower energy and maintenance costs. So in the long run green construction can be cheaper, but there are some front loaded costs to deal with.

What’s the best way to improve energy efficiency? 

Unfortunately, there’s no blanket answer for this question, every building is different and will have different ways to save energy. However, in most cases windows can play a big role in energy savings. In an average office, a shocking 50% of electricity is used just to light the place. By using large windows, you can take advantage of the free sunshine and use fewer light fixtures. Letting in more natural light has also proven to be a morale boost for employees. Just make sure you’re using energy efficient windows so your AC bill doesn’t go through the roof.

How important is insulation?

In a word, very. Opting for an insulation with a higher R-value (which rates an insulation’s resistance to heat flow) will increase the cost of building materials, but it can drastically lower your energy costs over time.

Are there any tax breaks for green buildings?

The EPA has created a handy resource guide that helps owners find sources of funding and gives a list of tax breaks for green buildings. Currently, there are some federal tax breaks for going green and a few states also offer some tax breaks.

If you have more questions about green construction or are considering going green for your next project, call Cowen Construction.