The green building movement took something of a hiatus during the downturn, and understandably so.
After all, most market-rate owners were more worried about saving their butts than saving energy during the Great Recession. But the trend has again gathered momentum, another sign the upturn has matured, allowing us the luxury of considering the “finer points.”
Green building has long been a focus in the affordable housing world, partly due to the types of financing available in that realm. The market-rate side of the business, though, has lagged for some time, and many owners and developers continue to complain about the cost of certification, as you’ll see in our story on page 30.
The argument for going green doesn’t really need to be made. Altruism aside, implementing energy-saving features just makes good business sense, helping lower operating costs.
Yet, do you really need a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to tell you what you already know? No, the money you save is its own reward.
But let’s face it, one of the biggest values of green building certification is in showing the world how green you are. One of the biggest values is in appealing to other people’s values.
Green building certification can be used as an effective marketing tool for targeting certain demographics, and for raising your firm’s profile, making your company appear smart and forward-thinking. Certifiably so.
Many businesses from across the consumer spectrum are accused of “green washing”—of just slapping the prefix “eco” or the word “green” on something just to sell it to the well-heeled and well-meaning. But certification ensures that it’s not just lip service, that a company has put its money where its mouth is. And certification also ensures that green building wasn’t just done, but that it was done right.
Some folks believe that energy-efficiency numbers will one day be a key metric for those buying and selling apartment buildings, just like the miles-per-gallon sticker on a car. In some ways, it’s already happening: Many financiers only want to be involved in newly built green communities—some even have corporate mandates to fund only green projects. And many municipalities are more likely to give the green light to a green project.
So, while energy-efficient measures will certainly save you money in the long run, the near-term values are more about raising your profile, and raising funds, rather than slashing costs. Attracting investors, lenders, and municipal approval on the front end and then giving you another bullet for your marketing gun during lease-up are a couple of the key value propositions of certification.
Is a good thing still a good thing if nobody knows about it? Sure. Like an anonymous donation to a charity, good deeds don’t need attribution.
So then, why get certified? Because, in the business world, corporate humility is something of an oxymoron. When it comes to the green building trend, much of the value is derived from tooting your own horn, and green certification is a powerful toot.
After all, I’ve never heard of an owner keeping its green certification a secret. If you save a tree from falling, and nobody is around to hear you talk about it, was it really saved?