Green Buildings; What And Why?

Ms. S. Gunawardane B. Sc. (Hons) QS, Green SLAP
Ms. Chethana Illankoon B. Sc. (Hons) QS, Green SLAP


1. Introduction

Sustainability has become a popular buzzword around the globe today with the recognition that natural systems may undergo significant and irreversible damage due to human activities. With the spiralling up of energy costs and the higher contribution of buildings to this unstoppable phenomenon, the topic of green buildings is often heard in many construction platforms. This article aims to reveal the current literature findings with regard to green buildings. Initially, it identifies the sustainability and green concept and how the concept of green buildings came to light with the global environmental movement. Then, it is followed by a brief discuss ion on what are green buildings. The next few sections identify drivers and impediments of green buildings as well as the cost and savings of the same. Finally, the present scenario of green buildings is discussed and conclusions are drawn.

2. Sustainability and Green Concept

Within the past couple of decades, the world has changed with an ever-increasing recognition that the mankind can no longer continue to use natural resources without facing tile environmental consequences Therefore, it became a common goal to find ways and means to preserve tile natural resources and fulfill tile human needs hand in hand. In 1987, Brutland Commission identified this as “Sustainability” and was defined as “development that meets tile needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In the vast area of “Sustainability”, the concept or the subsector of “Green” is given a higher consideration. Sustainability criteria could theoretically be developed through a triple-bottom-line interpretation of sustainability (Pope et al., 2004), where in, Social, Environmental and Economical sub sectors are considered. When considering tile “Environmental” subsector, the concept of ‘green’ comes into light. In the perspective of construction, buildings have a profound impact on the environment and thus, even small changes in their sustainability can create major reductions in tile current ecological footprint of the whole society (Eichholtz et al., 2010). Hence, it is inevitable to focus on building construction within a sustainable framework.

3. Global Environmental Focus towards Green Buildings

Near tile end of tile 20th century, the construction industry became a centre of focus within the environmental movement Building sector is one major component of tile construction industry and it is considered as a sector which is highly responsible for increased energy consumption, solid waste generation, global greenhouse gas emissions, environmental damage and resource depletion (CICA, 2002; Fuersu and McAllister, 2011). Buildings have a substantial influence on the environment as it accounts for one-sixth of the world’s freshwater consumption, one-quarter of its wood harvest and two-fifths of its material and energy flows (Gottfried, 1994; Rodman and Lenssen, 1996). This effect has become a global scenario and could be seen all over the globe irrespective of regions.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of U.S. primary energy use (includes fuel input for production), 39% of CO2 emissions, 70% of electricity consumption, 12.2% potable water consumption and annual generation of 136 million tons of building-related construction and demolition waste (US Green Building Council, 2008). On the other hand being Asian cities, in Hong Kong, buildings consume overall half of all energy and about 89% of electricity, mainly and substantially for air-conditioning which is tile cause of roughly 17% of Hong Kong’s all greenhouse gas emissions (CE, 2008; EB, 2008 cited Chan and Henn, 2008). Having focusing on these figures, it is necessary to depict that buildings should be tailor-made in a way which would have a minimum negative impact on tile environment and tile society at large. Hence, Chan and Henn, (2008) argued that when these environmental impacts of building ties become more apparent, “Green Building” concept gained momentum in the construction industry. Hence, major drive for global environmental movement towards Green buildings is definite.

4. What Are Green Buildings?

Although no consumer product has a zero impact on the environment, the term green product is used to describe those that attempt to safeguard or improve the natural environment by preserving energy and/ or resources and reducing or eradicating use of toxic agents, pollution, and waste (Ottman, 2006). Similarly, “Green building” is a term used to describe a building that is more energy and resource efficient, releases less pollution into the air, soil and water, and is healthier for occupants than standard buildings (Richardsones and Lynes, 2007).

The ways in which built structures are pro cured and erected, used and operated, maintained and repaired, modernised and rehabilitate d, and finally dismantled (and reused) or demolished (and recycled), constitute the complete cycle of sustainable construction activities (CICA, 2002). Thus, with regard to Green buildings, overall life cycle approach should be adopted instead of considering construction process in isolation. US Green Building Council (2007) defined Green Building, as the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. This definition reflects the concerns of Green buildings in relation to its life cycle.

5. Green Buildings: D rivers And Impediments

With reference to the discussion so far, the reason for moving toward s to green buildings is mainly due to concern for preserving nature and its depleted resources. However, even though that is the main reason there are many benefits which can be derived by moving towards Green Buildings, Many researchers have looked into these benefits in different angles and these benefits can be mainly identified in five different categories which are namely; environmental, market, financial, industry and health and community benefits as listed below (Pedini and Ashuri, 2010; Kats, 2003; Heerwagen, 2000, Chan et al. ,2009);

Financial Benefits
Reduce operations and maintenance costs, Reduce life cycle energy costs, Enhance asset value and profit, Improve employee productivity and satisfaction, Lower absenteeism / Increased productivity, Reduced employee health costs and insurance premiums, Lower employee turnover, Longer economic life of the facility,

Market Benefits
Enhanced marketability, Higher return on investment (ROI), Create value within the compatible market, Customer satisfaction, Higher occupancy rates, and Less vacancy period.

Industry Benefits
Positive impact on the Construction Industry, Process innovation associated with the quest for resource efficiency, Allow technology to become part of the green building process improving the outcome of projects, Allow professionals to become more qualified, educated, and integrated.

Environmental Benefits
Enhance and protect eco-system and biodiversity, Improve water and air quality, Reduce solid waste, Conserve natural resources. Use of renewable resources such as solar power and wind, cut pollution from fossil fuels.

Health and Community Benefits
Improve air, thermal, daylight and acoustic environments, Enhance occupant comfort and health, Minimize strain on local infrastructure, Contribute the overall quality of life.

While these benefits act as drivers towards Green Buildings, government regulations building codes and institutional pressures, moral obligation to be more socially responsible and Competitor s’ environmental activities also force firms to move towards Green Buildings (Polonsky, 1994). In a research conducted by Chan et al. (2009), perceived higher upfront costs, lack of education, no fiscal incentives, lack of awareness, no coordination and consistency in rating tools and standards, lack of research and unrecognized eco-labelling were identified as main obstacles for Green Buildings, Chan et al. (2009) further concluded that the perception of higher upfront cost might be overstated due to the lack of real knowledge of the cost of Green Buildings. Therefore, Costs and savings of Green Buildings should be analysed to get a clear picture on the real scenario with the concern for its life cycle.

6. Costs and Savings of Green Buildings

Since initial cost continues to be a major barrier to adoption of Green Buildings, there is a need to have collective information on incremental costs and benefits. Table 1 provides results of various studies which show cost premiums associated with Green Buildings and its perceived financial benefits over the life time.

According to Wiley et a1., 2008, green-labeled office buildings rent at a premium and achieve higher occupancy, relative to their competitors and further, with associated savings in operating expenses, Green Buildings demonstrate superior income potential in the rental market. Presently, many professionals have come to a common understanding that increase in initial cost outweighs the perceived benefits and also the increment in cost for a green certified building would be around 5% compared to a common standard type of a building (Masry, 2012). However, these figures may change regionally based on various factors and thus more in depth empirical research in this regard is a necessity.

7. Present Scenario

Pedini and Ashuri (2010) mentioned that Green Building is not a matter of choice or luxury but a necessity for the environmentally concerned industry professionals, owners, developers, government officials and the rest of the society. It was further argued that though over the years Green Building principles became standards for many corporations, institutions, and government bodies as an indication of their ethic al responsibility, the majority is still not up to the trend .According to Mills et al. (2012), more recently Green Building implementation is trending towards mandatory adoption unlike in the past decade which was more voluntary. Many countries have established Green Building Councils and rating systems (Eg: LEED – USA, BREEAM – England, HQE France, BCA Green Mark- Singapore, GBAS – China, Green Star – South Africa, CASBEE – Japan, etc.) while lot of mandatory enforcements made from governments could be seen all over the world. Today, many professionals are concerned about sustainable construction technologies. McGraw-Hill construction (2013) supported this fact highlighting their study which concluded 51% of architects, engineers, contractors, owners and consultants participated in the study anticipated that more than 60% of their work will be green by 2015. With regard to Middle East, Mills et al. (2012) highlighted that sustainability in the region is face d by many challenge s in the past, particularly due to the absence of green benchmarking and regulations, nevertheless current position has changed with the emergence of promising loc al rating systems, such as Abu Dhabi’s Estidama Pearl Rating System and the Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) in Qatar.

8. Conclusions

Greener product s ranging from day today commodities to automobiles and buildings were emerged with the concern for preserving environment. Construction being a larger consumer of earth ‘s natural resources became a focus of attention as greening construction would lead to larger reductions in effects to the environment. Thus, green buildings became a globally popular concept and it is no more a new concept. Presently, green building implementation is drifting towards mandatory adoption distinct to voluntary adaptation at its initial stages. When considering Green Buildings; focus should not be limited only to new constructions, but also to retrofitting of larger number of existing buildings, Further, application of concept should not be limited merely to construction stage, but also throughout its life cycle from design to dismantling.

In addition to preserving environment, Green buildings entertain its stakeholders with many market benefits, financial benefits, industry benefits and health and community benefits which act as drivers towards green buildings. Perceived higher upfront costs has been identified as the main impediment inherent to implementation of green buildings while lack of education, no fiscal incentives, lack of awareness, no coordination and consistency in rating tools and standards, lack of research, lack of green building professionals, lack of green building construction knowledge and lack of application experience in certification process are found as other obstacles. Therefore, stakeholders in the industry should collectively work to find out methods to overcome these obstacles in order to receive the invaluable benefits of green buildings.


  1. Alnaser, N.W, 2008. Toward s Sustainable Buildings in Bahrain , Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. The Open Construction and Building Technology Journ al, 2, 30-4.
  2. Chan, A and Henn, R. 2008. Overcoming the social and psychological barrier to green building. Organization and management, 2-46.
  3. Chan, E.H.W., Qian, Q.K., Lam, P.T.I. , 2009. The market for green building in developed Asian cities-the perspectives of building designers. Energy policy, 3 061-3070.
  4. Confederation of international contractors’ association (CICA), 2002. Industry as a partner for sustain able development. London: Longman.
  5. Ichholtz, P., Kok, N. and Quigley, J M. 2010, Doing well by doing good? Green office buildings. The American Economic Review, 100(5), 2492-2509.
  6. Fuertst, F. and McAllister, 2011. Green noise or green value? Measuring the effects of environmental certification on office values, Real estate economics. 39(1), 45-69.
  7. Kats, G., 2003. The costs and financial benefits of green buildings [online]. Available from: http:/ / News/ News477.pdf.
  8. Masry, D. 2012, How to gain green certification. Construction sites, 63 (October), 20-2 1.
  9. Mills, F, Lawrence, T, Rakheja, A, and Abdel K. Darwich, AK, 2012. Green Building Practices Around the World. ASHRAE Journal, 48 – 55.
  10. McGraw-Hill Construction 2013, World green building trends [online]. Available from: http:// 8613/ 6295/ 6420/World_Green_Building_Trends_SmartMarket Report2013.pdf.
  11. Ottman, 1997), Green marketing, opportunity for innovation, NTC publishers.
  12. Ottman, J 2008. The five simple rule s of green marketing. Design management review, 65-69.
  13. Ottman, J, Staffford, E.R. and Hartman, C.L.. 2006. Avoiding green marketing myopia Environment. 48 (5), 24-36.
  14. Pedini, A D. and Ashuri , B., 2010. An overview of the benefits and risk factors of going green in existing buildings. International journal of facility management, 1 (1), 1 – 15.
  15. Polon sky, M. and Rosenburger, J., 1994. Re-evaluating green marketing; a strategic approach, 21-30.