Solar, wind and biofuels all have required government subsidies to get off the ground. But taxpayer funding may not be needed for green buildings, according to panelists at a conference Tuesday.
The better occupancy rates, higher prices and other factors that boost the value of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified buildings over regular buildings largely eliminate the need for subsidies, panelists said at the San Mateo, Calif., Environmental Ventures conference sponsored by Dow Jones.
“There is no need for subsidies because of the risk of not building green today,” said Pierre Trevet, managing director at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.
The average LEED-certified building is valued 7.5 percent higher than a standard building, he said. The return on investment improves by 6 percent, occupancy goes up 3.5 percent and rents also increase faster, he said.
Green buildings also save energy, a significant benefit considering that roughly 40 percent of the electricity generated in the United States gets pumped into buildings, he said. Buildings also consume 25 percent of the wood, gobble 20 percent of the water and produce 45 percent of the waste, Trevet said.
In another presentation, Neil Hawkins, vice president of sustainability at The Dow Chemical Co., added that making buildings more efficient represents perhaps the best way to reduce greenhouse gases at the moment.
Small companies are landing deals. Hycrete, which makes a waterproof concrete, has scored a $1 million contract to outfit a new building in Mumbai, India, said Robert Koch, a partner at NGEN Partners, which has invested in Hycrete (read more about the project in Next Cleantech Hub: India? and PureSense Soaks Up $45M). Hycrete claims its concrete is green because it doesn’t need tar waterproofing, can be more easily recycled and is less toxic than regular concrete.
The deal is good news for a growing number of green building materials and green contracting companies. Here’s a partial list: Cal-Star Cement (cement that requires less fossil fuel in manufacturing), Serious Materials (same thing, but for drywall), Michelle Kaufmann Design (modular, factory-built homes), Zeta Communities (homes), American Hometec (water heaters) and a huge mass of solid-state lighting companies.
One thing the panelists didn’t mention was that going LEED isn’t extremely costly. Some contractors have put the figure for low-level LEED compliance at only about 2 percent of the total cost.
The green industry’s focus on subsidies has partly been driven by too much focus on solar, said Michael DeRosa, a managing director of Element Partners.
“Solar versus coal is further away on costs than any of these other technologies," he said. "Everything is a lot closer than solar is to coal."