Green Building as an Economic Development Tool

From improving energy efficiency to mitigating the impacts of climate change, businesses have been working to meet the demand of a marketplace that’s ever-more ecologically conscious. One industry in which this shift has been markedly noticeable is construction, where companies have turned to new, more efficient techniques.

“In major markets now, conventional construction doesn’t really exist,” Nathan Taft, director of acquisitions for green builder Jonathan Rose Companies, told Business News Daily. “We’ve seen a real shift in the industry, getting a push from government mandate to push people along on the learning curve. People are just realizing that green building makes sense.”

Sustainable building involves an analytical, data-driven approach to various renovations, including installing insulation, updating lighting to LED fixtures, and diagnosing heating and boiler systems. This approach helps companies identify the most wasteful aspects of a given structure and determine how to best address that waste.

Sustainable building is not just about renovations. New construction is also a key element, with the designs constructed from the ground up to accommodate both environmental sustainability and human needs.

“We position buildings from a holistic standpoint to enhance efficiency, as well as tenant and resident experience,” Taft said. “Energy retrofits are often combined with creating a new community space. … We’re always integrating green from the very beginning, not just tacking it on at the end. It’s really what the building is about from its first inception.”

Some view sustainable construction as a vehicle to spur further economic development, particularly in communities that are typically seen as disadvantaged when it comes to attracting businesses. The U.S. Green Building Council (GBC) maintains this philosophy as part of its work to spread green building practices throughout the world.

By promoting its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, the U.S. GBC encourages building designs that use less water and energy, reduce overall carbon emissions, and save money. The group might focus on buildings, but the effort is intended to have a ripple effect throughout the economy of entire communities and, ideally, the world, said Mahesh Ramanujam, chief operating officer of the U.S. GBC.

“When we look at the buildings-to-communities-to-cities mission, it’s no longer just a green building but it’s also an economic development tool,” Ramanujam said. “Being able to establish this from an environmental lens [and] economic lens, and most importantly [resolving] the income inequality gap … makes it attractive for businesses to come and invest in and grow the market.

“Our mission is about fundamental behavioral change in the marketplace, for [people] to understand sustainability principles in everything they do, in life cycles of consumers and businesses,” he added. “We want sustainability to be embedded in [the] life of the consumer, so that everything you touch, be it clothing, be it eating habits and hobbies, reflects the principles of environmental and human sustainability.”

Ramanujam said he believes green construction can affect every other industry, from health care spaces to retail. Not only will operating in a green building save these companies money, but it will also help themproject a sense of corporate social responsibility, which is increasingly important to consumers, according to a Nielsen report issued in October 2015. The report found that 66 percent of consumers said they were willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

“Consumer brands that haven’t embraced sustainability are at risk on many fronts,” Carol Gstalder, senior vice president of reputation and public relations solutions for Nielsen, said in the report. “Social responsibility is a critical part of proactive reputation management, and companies with strong reputations outperform others when it comes to attracting top talent, investors, community partners and, most [importantly], consumers.”