Sustainable buildings are not more costly to construct, finds report

Sustainable buildings are not more costly to construct finds reportThe widely held belief that sustainable buildings are more costly to construct is dispelled in a new report which shows that achieving lower BREEAM ratings can in fact, incur little or no additional cost. Researchers from Sweett Group and BRE examined the actual costs and savings associated with a wide range of sustainable building strategies. The research team applied cost data from real construction projects to three case study buildings – an office, secondary school and community healthcare centre – to produce detailed capital and operational cost information. The report; Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback also reveals the associated payback to be gained from reduced utility costs and finds that even where achieving higher BREEAM ratings incurs some additional costs, this can be paid back within two to five years through the reduced costs of operating a more sustainable building. The study investigated the:

  • capital costs of measures to improve sustainability, including readily usable no or low cost measures, along with those that must be built into the project early on to minimise their costs,
  • capital costs of achieving overall levels of building sustainability, using the costs associated with gaining Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent ratings under the BREEAM sustainability rating scheme,
  • life cycle costs of operating buildings, focusing on energy and water consumption – the study found that specifying sustainability measures during the design and procurement stages can bring cost savings without adding significantly, or at all, to upfront costs.

The researchers concluded that achieving the lower BREEAM ratings can incur little or no additional cost. Targeting the higher BREEAM ratings, and so more challenging levels of sustainability, incurs some additional cost but this is typically less than 2 per cent. The investigation of life cycle operational costs showed that any additional cost can be paid back within 2–5 years through utility savings.

“This study adds to a growing body of work on the costs and value of sustainability,” says Yetunde Abdul of BRE, one of the report’s authors.

“It provides further strong evidence that a sustainable approach need not add significantly to building costs. And, where there are additional capital costs, these can be repaid relatively quickly through the reduced costs of operating the building.”

“This report provides a practical resource to help developers and their project teams target and then deliver buildings that meet high standards of environmental performance” says Adam Mactavish, Operations Director – Management Consulting, for Sweett Group.

Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback (Ref FB63) is available at