When discussing sustainability in the building industry, there's no denying its significance. However, just like in many sectors, it's riddled with misconceptions that hinder adoption. Differentiating between myths and reality is essential for all types of property owners and developers. Capitalizing on sustainability strategies can significantly reduce overall expenses and improve building lifespan.


Even though sustainable design and construction are much more mainstream, misconceptions still exist. It's time to put these myths to bed and set the record straight. 


The Truth of Building Sustainably: Insights for Building Owners 


Myth 1: Sustainability will only benefit my tenants, not me as the owner. 

Truth: Owners stand to gain significantly from green initiatives. A property equipped with sustainable features is sought after in the real estate market. On average, green-certified buildings have 11% higher rents, 4% higher occupancy, and 10% higher property value than conventional buildings. Over a decade, this can amount to a substantial return on investment. 


Myth 2: Going green is too expensive. 

Truth: Although the initial construction of green buildings is slightly higher (only 2% higher!), the long-term operational savings are substantial. For instance, the U.S. Green Building Council details that green buildings typically net a 20% reduction in maintenance expenses and reduce operational costs by nearly 10% in just one year. Furthermore, the average payback period for going green instead of conventional is only 7 years for new buildings and 6 years for retrofits. 


Another significant cost-saving measure is utilizing the numerous government programs that offer incentives, rebates, and tax breaks to promote sustainable building. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act provides major tax breaks for meeting energy efficiency criteria and has specific options for low-income home builders. 


Myth 3: Only a niche market cares about sustainability. Mainstream consumers won't notice. 

Truth: Consumer sentiment is rapidly evolving. A Nielsen survey found that 78% of U.S. consumers consider a sustainable lifestyle important. A "lifestyle" is all-encompassing and includes where people live and work. 


Following this trend, multiple surveys have found renters want green buildings and are willing to pay more for them. Furthermore, this attracts office tenants who are trying to meet business ESG objectives


Myth 4: Sustainability is restrictive and limits market expansion. 

Truth: Modern global markets often favor sustainable practices. Not only are sustainability standards increasingly embedded in building codes or local incentives, but cities and communities across America are differentiating with a commitment to sustainability by achieving sustainable certification – and those certifications benefit from buildings also certified. While some regions do not currently include sustainability as a high priority in their building requirements, this will change over time due to market drivers; see Myth 3. 


For example, the U.S. has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. With 29% of total emissions coming from fossil fuel combustion in residential and commercial buildings, the development sector will be a priority target. 


Myth 5: Investors don't care about sustainability; they care about returns. 

Truth: While yes, most investors primarily care about the financial outcome, profits and sustainability are interconnected. That’s why many in the real estate industry, and growing, report through GRESB. Currently, over 154,000 individual assets representing $8.6 trillion in real estate and infrastructure value spanning private and public markets is reported through GRESB, which provides investors with the data and insights they need to make decisions on where to invest. The net result is that poor-performing portfolios and those who are not actively tracking and reporting sustainable metrics are less likely to attract real estate investor capital


Myth 6: Employees won't value sustainability efforts. It's an external concern. 

Truth: Employee expectations are changing. A recent Gallop poll found that 69% of job seekers consider a company's sustainability in their job search, with 24% considering it a priority in their decision. After hiring, sustainable workplaces add significant benefits for employees and employers, including a 28% increase in workplace satisfaction, a 10% increase in productivity, and higher employee retention.  


Myth 7: Green building initiatives will be a regulatory headache. 

Truth: Rather than complicate regulatory matters, green initiatives often simplify them. Adopting sustainable standards early on ensures businesses stay ahead of evolving regulatory landscapes. By proactively integrating these standards, businesses negate the risks of future non-compliance, legal complications, and the resultant financial penalties. 


Furthermore, there are many resources available to help builders navigate the landscape of sustainability certifications. Both online resources and software solutions are a great place to start. Plus, consultants can play a pivotal role in developing baseline resource use data, creating sustainability roadmaps, and spearheading initiatives. 


Building Towards a Greener Tomorrow 

When you break down the myths, the path forward is clear. The data and market trends compel action. 


If you're new to sustainability or starting a new project, this path might seem daunting, but guidance from experienced consultants like those at Emerald Built Environments can make the journey smooth and rewarding. 


Ready to harness the advantages of green building for your ventures? Dive deep with our experts and embrace a greener, brighter future for your next build. 

We Can Show You the Way