Building Value with Green Infrastructure – Part Two

The goal of biophilic design – and all increases to green space in any building – is to enhance creativity and encourage collaboration that results in less burnout and more turnout of new ideas through physical proximity to nature.

In Part One of this article, we explored the many options of adding green infrastructure to commercial buildings and the benefits that accrue to property owners who do so.

Here, in Part Two, we’ll explore more benefits as well as costs of gray vs. green infrastructure.

What savings and increases in property value can one expect when investing in green infrastructure? Let’s take a snapshot of one major project – installing a green roof. You’re going to need a professional engineer and registered architect to do a structural analysis to determine if your roof can sustain vegetation or needs reinforcement; an architect/landscape designer and/or green roof specialist to design and install the system; and a big budget.

A decision will also need to made on the type of plantings and systems to be used – from relatively simple sedum and grasses to a veritable forest – that fit your budget, climate, facility and goals.

That being said, what is the ROI? For one thing, the estimated life of a green roof is twice that of a conventional roof, avoiding that replacement cost (especially if you wisely install a green roof at the end of the current roof’s life expectancy). You’ll have energy savings because of the green roof’s insulating qualities and reductions in heating and cooling. There will be tax credits which vary. Your rents and length of tenancy will probably increase. You may have a reduction in storm water fees. Taking a long-term view of two or more decades, savings for a medium-size office building can be $1+ million.
But, how you calculate makes a difference. Will your cost analysis figure only the initial costs of installing green infrastructure, or will you include the costs of design, installation, operation, maintenance and replacement?

Regardless, the comparison of green vs. gray infrastructure is both art and science because there are intangible benefits such as the difficulty in valuing enhanced safety, or habitat improvements for beneficial wildlife, or greater office worker productivity. Put another way, there is a difference between cost analysis vs. cost-benefit analysis.

As a commercial real estate appraiser and the only one in New York City with a LEED-AP BD+C credential, I can tell you that in determining building value, green infrastructure has become a growing part of assessment. I also believe that it is only a matter of time before lenders will require green analysis in their underwriting considerations.

Trees, shrubs, gardens, fountains, permeable pavements, bioswales, planters, green walls. All contribute tremendous benefits to property owners, tenants and communities.

To explore the topic further, epa.gov has in-depth information on green infrastructure as well as help with finding resources in your community and collaborating with partners.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

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