Going Green Saves Green

Maintaining buildings is expensive. The top culprits: electricity, heating, cooling, taxes. There really isn’t too much you can do about taxes. But electricity, heating, and cooling are areas you can have some sort of cost control.

Many companies are going green. Why? Because when you make a few changes, being more green saves green. Here is how:

  • Using electricity wisely and efficiently decreases monthly bills and reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Updating your existing heating and cooling systems with either new HVAC parts and HVAC control boards is an alternative to purchasing new units.
  • Instituting a recycling program, which encompasses a “use less policy,” will also save money.

The kicker is that there is a green support system, which makes going green even more attractive. The US government provides tax credits to encourage green building. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) provides guidelines and for green certifications.

Tax Credits

Indeed, money does speak…to our wallets. Taxes speak even louder. You don’t want to pay any more than necessary. It’s perfectly ethical, even helpful. In fact, the government understands. And the government wants you to help spur the economy and save the planet at the same time. Now that’s a good deed that lasts a long time. Here are few possibilities:

Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning (HVAC)
The problem is that existing homes have older units with outdated HVAC parts and HVAC control boards. For many, it may be easier to buy new units. The credit allows up to 30% of $1,500. This includes furnaces and central air conditioning units. This credit expires December 31, 2010.

Windows and Doors
Again, this expires December 31, 2010 with a tax savings of 30% on an expenditure of $1,500. Energy efficient doors, windows, skylights, and storm doors and windows qualify.

Be careful though. Not all products that claim to be energy efficient qualify for the tax credit. Before you buy, make sure you check energystar.gov and make sure you get the product that qualifies.

LEED into the Future

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) has taken the initiative of providing building owners, architects, and contractors with guidelines for constructing and retrofitting buildings to be more environmentally friendly. The USGBC offers a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Getting certified is a way for companies to identify themselves as green. They’re working in a building that has very little environmental impact. The premise is to reduce a company’s carbon footprint and increase innovation, corporate responsibility, and energy savings.

LEED certification for an existing building is based on seven principles and sub credits with assigned point values.

  1. Sustainable Sights (26 points) focuses on maintaining the existing geologic environment, reducing further damage to the surroundings, protecting the habitat with appropriate landscaping, integrated pest management, erosion control, reducing the employee carbon footprint, and reducing heat island effect (area around a building that traps heat and pollutants).
  2. To meet this standard, businesses institute carpooling, use rocks native to the area in landscaping, paint the exterior a light reflective color and implement a green roof (to decrease the heat island effect).
  3. Water Efficiency (14 points) essentially encourages using water wisely through landscaping, plumbing, and water management.
  4. Simple fixes can help businesses attain this standard. Installing water efficient toilets and using landscapes that require very little irrigation saves water and reduces your bill.
  5. Energy and Atmosphere (35 points) is all about efficiency. An energy efficiency best management practices document is required along with minimum energy performance documentation, and a refrigerant management system. Renewable energy source, a building automation system (BAS), and building commissioning are also included in this standard.
  6. Ways to earn points for this category would be to install solar panels. Although there may be upfront cost, the loss of dependency on grid electricity saves money and the environment in the end. Perhaps the easiest option is to update old HVAC parts that are not nearly as efficient or to purchase new HVAC control boards to regulate temperature. A system that shuts down heat or air conditioning based on current temperature reduces use and cost.
  7. Materials and Resources (10 points) is about sustainability and waste management. This includes office components that are sustainable in terms of food, construction, and other consumables and ways of disposing waste.
  8. Instituting a recycling program within the office is a first step for this category. Encouraging staff to print on both sides of a piece of paper, using scrap paper instead a new notebook for notes, electronic files instead of physical, and anything that reduces waste helps. Buying recycled paper and non-toxic products helps earn points.
  9. Indoor Environmental Quality (15 points) is more about reducing harmful chemicals causing air pollution. Air quality performance assessment is required to meet minimum standards; a no smoking as well as a green cleaning policy must be in place.
  10. Using sustainable, non-toxic methods of cleaning is very important. Checking labels and doing a little extra research for companies providing eco-friendly cleaning products will mean employees won’t suffer from headaches from cleaning fumes (saving on potential doctor visits).
  11. Innovation in Operations (6 points) encourages creativity and ingenuity in making a building and company practices more environmentally friendly. Thinking outside the box to meet a goal and extending efforts beyond the expected will help meet requirements for this category.
  12. Regional Priority (4 points) is concerned with local environmental issues and helping reduce impact. Simply paying attention to the area that is home to your business and doing what is needed to preserve and make it “a better place” may help.

A total of 100 points, the standards mentioned above contribute to a certification level. There are four certification levels: certified (40-49 points), silver (50-59 points), gold (60-79 points), and platinum (80+ points).

Being green and environmentally friendly has different implications for different people. Most realize though, that by reducing and reusing, you’re saving money. No matter what your reason may be, know that by jumping on the environmental bandwagon, you’re doing a good deed. You’re making a positive impact for your family as well as your colleagues and fellow working adults to enjoy now, but also leaving a legacy for everyone in the future. You’re saving more than just money by going green.