The scale and speed with which new buildings have been erected in the past decade is astounding, and in the last couple of years, much more attention has been paid to the environmental impacts of the building lifecycle. Unfortunately, now it appears that even these acts are environmentally questionable…
Now a group of builders has issued a report arguing that the green-building vision may be more of a myth. You can make a building more energy efficient, the group says, but it won’t come cheap, and it could take decades to pay off.
The report, released this week by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, found that a 50 percent energy improvement beyond federal standards is technically impossible. A 30 percent target is achievable, but only by adding a million-dollar solar system that could take up to 100 years to pay for itself.
And the results of the tests were as follows…
The best-performing building flourished in wind-frozen Chicago, where energy use was shaved 23 percent, for a payback time of nine years. The other two buildings, however, couldn’t save more than 22 percent of their energy, and payback took more than 11 years — too long to interest developers, NAIOP said.
The numbers can be even more skewed than that, said Ken Sagan, a building codes analyst for the National Association of Home Builders. Sagan, who used to own a heating and air-conditioning company, said that when he considered adding a wind turbine to his zero-energy home, he realized that its cost — $175,000 — would take 25 years to pay off in utility savings.
These figures point to a larger problem in our society – our wishful thinking that technology will bail us out of our problems. Climate CHange, Peak Oil and the Economy can not be solved by building more stuff – “green” or not.