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Green Building is a Good Deal

Building green isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, according to a new study led by investment group Good Energies. Although it might not be the best economic time to put up a new building, the study points out that green buildings cost on average less than 2 percent more than traditional buildings.

That’s a big difference from the public perception. A 2007 survey from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that business leaders believed that green building practices would cost them an average 17 percent premium over conventional builds.

If even that smaller 2 percent premium still seems too much, Good Energies said the savings on water and energy more than outweigh the initial extra cost. The study said green buildings boast an average 33 percent reduction in energy use alone. The report looked at data on 150 recent green buildings across 33 U.S. states and 10 countries, and found that the initial “green premium” was paid back by energy and water savings within five years for about 50 percent of the buildings in the study.

But some experts are skeptical of the study, telling the New York Times that the cost differentials are hard to measure for green buildings. Peter Pfeiffer, a green architect based in Austin, Texas, told the Times that cleantech features for a home or building can add as little as 1 percent to as much as 5 percent to the bill.

Companies such as San Francisco-based green builder Project Frog, which just pulled in $8 million in funding, stand to benefit if businesses take a brighter view of building more environmentally friendly digs. Project Frog announced yesterday that it raised the Series B financing, led by RockPort Capital Partners.

Good Energies, which has a significant number of solar and wind investments, has its own stakes in the green building industry, with cash going to Ice Energy, Microstaq and SAGE Electrochromics. Microstaq makes fluid control solutions that have applications in HVAC systems, and SAGE Electrochromics makes electronically tinting glass. Just last month, Ice Energy, which makes an ice-based storage system for air conditioning units, grabbed $33 million in the first tranche of a Series B round, although Good Energies did not participate in the tranche.

Improvements in building efficiencies have the potential to take a huge load off of the national power grid, with buildings currently responsible for consuming 40 percent of the world’s energy, including two-thirds of its electricity, according to the report. A more efficient building envelope can keep that percentage down, reducing the size of heating and cooling systems, and fixtures including waterless urinals can reduce plumbing requirements. Smart building networks that control lighting and windows can also keep lighting costs down.

Good Energies said the final report, which is still being edited, will be published next summer.

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