Understanding the personal and financial benefits of green certification

By Switch Automation • July 9, 2019

To provide a deeper understanding of green building certification, the first post in this series highlighted the certification types that matter most in CRE, while the following post examined a simpler way for sustainability teams to achieve green certification.

This third and final post will investigate the financial, organizational and occupant-related benefits of investing in green certification.

Green has gone global

People are demanding healthier places to live and work, not just in the U.S. but around the world. 79% of employees said that, all else being equal, they’d sooner take a job in a LEED-certified building over a job in an uncertified one. This shift in preference has turned sustainably into a global trillion-dollar industry. 

To meet the growing demand, companies are turning to smart platforms that not only assist with green certification processes, but actually help building operators and facility managers make better data-driven decisions. These platforms use readily available data to quickly and easily gather and process building data so FM teams can improve the occupant experience, drive down costs and improve energy performance.

Putting a little humanity back into the workplace

There’s been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the prospect of artificial intelligence and machine learning “stealing jobs.” While automation will undoubtedly reduce or eliminate certain positions, the reality is that the jobs on the chopping block are the manual, time-intensive jobs we don’t particularly like anyway.

19% of the world’s workforce can be qualified as “actively disengaged.” That disengagement accounts for approximately $7 trillion in lost global productivity each year, according to Gallup. And while automation might eliminate some jobs, it also has the potential to reverse these numbers a bit. 

Automation – and the up-to-date, real-time data that comes with it – can impact organizations, teams, colleagues and brands simply by freeing up human brain capacity. In the specific case of green certification, once laborious ‘data chasing’ has been alleviated, building operators, facility managers and other stakeholders will have more time and resources to devote to improving creativity, innovation and customer experiences. 

This important work can only be achieved, once more tedious and menial work is offloaded however. Automation therefore creates deeper, more meaningful work — the antithesis of job loss and disengagement.

Put plainly, automating green certification processes with smart platforms can actually enable workers to do more meaningful, and sometimes more creative, tasks that deepen connection and improve revenue in the long-term. It also lightens the certification admin workload, affects organizational culture and puts a little humanity back into environmental campaigns. 

Adding value through green certification

LEED is one of the most popular green certification programs in the world, with more than 32,500 projects certified since 2000. There’s no doubt that green building certifications like these add value to new properties — more than 10% in some cases — but there are greater environmental and social benefits too. Let’s examine some of the other ways going green can add value.

Reduced overhead costs

Green certification saves building owners money. The systems, processes and platforms that optimize equipment and improve building performance efficiency have the potential to generate more than $400,000 in cost savings over a ten year period. Retro-commissioning and continuous commissioning practices offer additional cost savings, with retro-commissioning delivering an average payback period of one year and continuous commissioning producing average savings of $100 million per building according to Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Laboratory.

Tax incentives

Another benefit of securing green building certification are the associated tax credits and deductions. The requirements tend to be highly specific, so it’s important to speak with your tax professional on this subject, but improvements like high-efficiency lighting, more efficient building envelopes and better HVAC systems are just a few ways to achieve these. 

Increased tenant comfort

Sure, green building certifications indicate healthy environmental practices, but how does a green building really affect the people inside? Ensuring greater personal comfort — whether for employees or residents — positively impacts health and wellness. 

Adequate ventilation helps control air pollutants from fabrics, cleaning chemicals, and outdoor pollution. Good design, access to outdoor areas, and recreational and leisure spaces reduce boredom, increase blood flow, and give people a general sense of well-being. Additionally, employees in green certified buildings report that they show up to work more often and are more productive while they’re there. Furthermore, green certified buildings tend to demand higher rent and achieve greater occupancy levels than non-certified buildings.

Signal your values and differentiate your brand

As climate change awareness grows, people are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability initiatives. Whether you’re LEED or WELL-certified, you clearly signal your organization’s commitment to reducing climate change, positively differentiating your brand and attracting similarly conscientious occupants. 

Raise awareness as a community

The U.S. National Security Agency credits LEED with creating a “greater awareness of green building benefits” by demonstrating “the broad applicability of green and sustainable building design criteria.”

Although programs like LEED and WELL are certifying tens of thousands of buildings worldwide, these buildings remain in the minority. Nonetheless, awareness of green building certification is growing as property owners, operations managers, design firms and architects gain a deeper understanding of the benefits. 

Growing awareness, growing opportunities

Green certification should be the first step to helping facilities managers and building owners cut costs, improve system efficiencies, reduce their carbon footprint and improve occupant health. 

And while an understanding of green buildings and their benefits is continuing to spread, there’s still a long way to go to achieve change on a global scale. It won’t happen overnight, but as worldwide concern about climate change increases and smart building platforms find wider adoption, our industry appears to be well on its way. 

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