Green Building    
Posted: September 9, 2014, 12:00am by Scott Allred

The Cost of Green Building

How much more will it cost is always the first question from someone just beginning to explore green building. The answer will always be: “It depends”. A comparable question is “how much does a car cost?” Is it a Hyundai or a Mercedes? Recent studies have concluded that it doesn’t have to cost much more, if any, to build a green home.

The major variables that have the largest impact on costs are:

  • How Green do you want to be? – Answering this cost question requires that you identify exactly what green building practices or products you will use that differ from conventional construction. This process means gathering detailed data from consultants, vendors, and subcontractors and then value-engineering based on selections.  All major green building programs offer various levels of green certification to meet the consumer’s desires. The National Association of Homebuilder’s (NAHB) National Green Building Program offers four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald.  A recent study conducted by the NAHB on a home in Texas, compared the cost of a home built to minimum building code as compared to the NAHB National Green Building program. The costs to achieve the minimum level of green certification under the NAHB program were 1-2 percent.  Comparatively, to achieve a higher level of certification, the Gold level, construction costs increased by 7 - 8 percent for the NAHB program. Additional Information on the NAHB program is available at
  • Builder/Designer Experience – The old adage “Experience is the best teacher” certainly holds true for green and energy efficient construction. A builder’s first “green” project will be the most expensive - some studies suggest as much as 5% higher. Reasons for this include the lack of readily available sustainable building materials, mistakes, and subcontractors that charge a premium because of new materials and techniques. Proper planning for green features early in the design process, selecting locally available materials, and hiring subcontractors that have an environmentally friendly attitude, can reduce green building cost to be about the same as conventional construction. For example, a slight decrease in size combined with better up-front design may be a break-even proposition, or better windows and insulation may be offset by reductions in the size of the mechanical equipment.  Part of this learning curve is to incorporate green design early in the process. To make the home as energy efficient and cost effective as possible the house needs to be sited so that the majority of windows face south. Passive solar heating can reduce heating bills by 30-50% with little or no additional cost.  The cost premiums, when they exist, will disappear as energy prices increase and the value of green becomes more apparent.

By endorsing a policy of “Practical Green Building” that includes building features into a home to make it more energy efficient, more durable, with healthier indoor air quality, it is my experience that the additional costs can range from 1-5% higher than conventional construction costs. The resulting energy and water savings on monthly utilities make green building economically efficient and can result in a pay-back in 5 - 8 years. Most studies have shown that green buildings are frequently better buildings and have higher resale values. It is a pretty safe bet that energy prices will continue to rise over the life of the home making energy investments in a home one of the best investments you can make today.

Scott Allred is chairman of the Triad Green Building Council and the owner of Precept Construction. He can be reached at or 286-6811. For additional resources on green building, visit
The Triad Green Building Council serves members of the Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem and Burlington Home Builders Associations that are interested in learning more about green building techniques, products and services.

The council meets monthly with an educational program as the primary focus. Additional seminars and workshops are offered throughout the year for industry professionals and consumers. To find out more about the Triad Green Building Council, contact the Greensboro Builders Association at 855-6255 or

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