Green Building Can Be Affordable for Everyone
Low income families often struggle to pay utility bills and for many low income renters, 25 percent of their total housing expenditure is dedicated to energy. Energy efficient development – such as the EarthCraft certification program, for multifamily residential developments, present an opportunity to reduce water and energy consumption and ultimate costs for renters.
These recovered costs can mean additional money for essentials such as food and healthcare. However, it is often the perception that upfront costs for green building are prohibitively significant for affordable housing development.
Southface conducted a year-long research project along with the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, to dispute that perception.
Eighteen affordable housing developments participated in the study: 11 of 18 were green developments, and others were traditional construction. The total construction costs for green developments are about five percent less than traditional developments. The study shows that the total cost per sf for green developments is $91.85 while the total cost per sf for traditional developments is $96.09.
The study also found that hard costs – cost of materials, labor and equipment used in construction, are only two percent more for green developments when compared to traditional developments. However soft costs, which are the design and construction fees associated with the management of development processes, are more than 13 percent lower for green developments when compared to traditional developments.
There isn’t a considerable difference between the construction costs for green development versus traditional development. Some key findings of the report include:
- Families residing in green developments save nearly $8/ month and $96/year, and seniors save more than $10 per month and $122 per year more on energy costs when compared to non-green developments.
- Green developments in this study save nearly $5,000 per year on owner-paid utility costs when compared to non-green developments.
- Green developments spend 12% less on energy (common areas) per square foot than non-green developments. Residents of green developments use 14% less energy per square foot.
- Green developments are nearly 5% less expensive on total construction costs per square foot and more than 13% less expensive on soft construction costs than the non-green developments. More specifically, analysis indicates that green certified developments in GA, NC and SC cost less to design and build than non-green alternatives in AL and SC.
Sustainability can be affordable for everyone. You can read the full report and the executive summary of The Impact of Affordable Green Housing on Southface’s website.