Green Home Costs

There are many reasons to build green. These include concern for the environment, desire for higher quality buildings, health considerations and interest in creating an environmentally friendly image for your business. Although some individual green building strategies may cost more, the benefits of adopting a green approach to homebuilding are remarkable.

Balancing costs and benefits

These Guidelines recommend methods and materials that range in cost—some of them cost no more or even less than conventional options. In fact, when a home is designed from the outset to be green, it need not cost more than a conventionally built home. While not all measures recommended in these Guidelines will be applicable to your project, the measures included are relevant and reasonable for residential developments built today.

Some of the recommended measures do cost more initially, but this additional cost needs to be evaluated in the context of the longer-term benefits provided: utility cost savings, better indoor air quality for residents, healthier jobsites for workers, and longer building life. When considering green building measures, it is very important to balance upfront design, product and construction costs with these other significant benefits.

How green building can reduce costs

While the health and environmental benefits of green building are well established, many people still assume that green building costs more. But taking a whole-house systems approach to green building, as described on the previous page, can actually reduce construction and operating costs compared to standard practice. This integrated approach to green building can help steer the design away from expensive solutions and toward cost-effective ones.

During schematic design, for example, the team might consider strategies such as simplifying a building’s wall structure by changing the wall articulation to a flat wall with bolted-on overhangs and thick trim. Such a change can often save money and materials, but would be costly to do once construction documents were underway.

To give another example, a design team that takes a whole-house systems approach might recommend increasing the exterior wall thickness to accommodate more insulation, which could result in reducing the size and cost of the heating system.

The key to reducing costs is to evaluate opportunities as early as possible in the design process because the range of cost-effective solutions narrows as the design progresses. Consider framing techniques. During schematic design, the design team might decide to incorporate advanced framing techniques.

These techniques, as described in the Guidelines, reduce wood and construction costs while maintaining structural integrity and meeting building code. But if framing changes aren’t considered until much later in the design or construction process, significant cost and resource-saving opportunities may be missed.

Green building is pushing the design and construction industry to do things that may be new, such as taking a whole-house systems approach to design and construction. Learning new practices sometimes involves an initial outlay of time and money. But green buildings are more than just buildings. They are the end result of a collaboration between people on all levels of design and construction who are committed to improving on past practices and improving homes for today and the future.