Are Green Buildings Affordable?

Oxfam Canada Building. Image Credit: Build Green Solutions.

This week, the Tyee published an article called ‘Five Myths about Green Building.’ It’s a great article and well worth a read, but the first myth struck a chord with me. It’s about the myth that green buildings have to cost more, which is not necessarily true, as per the Daily Commercial News’ article, ‘OXFAM Canada green retrofit sets the bar high.’ The article goes on to explain how a green building company managed to successfully retrofit the ancient 1950’s OXFAM building to have LEED Platinum environmental attributes for less than $100 per square foot.

(By the way, that article in the Tyee was the first in a series on similar articles, so do keep an eye out for the follow ups).

The Tyee starts by explaining why the myth about green building costs originally became ‘fact’. Giving examples, such as the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Olympic Village and Southeast False Creek neighbourhood, the article points out that a lot of the most high profile green buildings are outlandishly expensive and, in the first example, cost B.C. taxpayers more than double the promised price.

The article then argues that it wasn’t the green aspects of these builds that made them go so dramatically over-budget, but rather inexperienced and over-ambitious planners. Indeed, according the article, “a study that compared 221 new buildings found no difference in cost between 83 LEED buildings and 138 similar conventional buildings”.

The man behind the survey, Davis Langdon, makes a very interesting point regarding how a change in thinking towards green building will come about. He argues that green building techniques are still considered an extra feature rather than an essential and fundamental part of building practices and, until that changes, builders, and by proxy the rest of the population, will continue to think that green design is an extra cost rather than a long-term cost-saving measure.

The retrofitted OXFAM building is a great example of this truism; because the building was so incredibly inefficient on every level, the developers were able to approach the project more holistically, tackling “air quality, waste management, renewable energy opportunities, emissions offsets and water conservation” in one go, rather than adding on green features one at a time.

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1 Response to “Are Green Buildings Affordable?”


  1. 1 greenfootprintsblog January 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Yes they are affordable, but only if designed and built correctly. Adding unecessary equipment will increase the price. However, if done efficiently the marginal increase in material will be offset by energy savings through the life of the building.


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