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How to invest sustainably

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Population growth, development and rapid urbanisation are causing our communities and cities to use more resources than ever before, which means more waste, less fresh water and an increase in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings, in particular, are responsible for a substantial portion of global energy use, resource consumption and emissions. According to the UNEP Buildings and Climate Change Report, buildings account for more than 40% of global energy use and one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In the United States, for instance, buildings account for almost 40%of the national CO2 emissions and out-consume both the industrial and transportation sectors. Therefore, the building sector has the largest potential for significantly reducing natural resource depletion.

Green is profitable

As the demand for more sustainable building options increases, thanks to a growing global environmental consciousness, green construction is becoming increasingly profitable and desirable within the international market. According to a Dodge Data and Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report, the global green buildings sector continues to double every three years, with emerging economies like China, India and Brazil leading the way.

This survey of respondents from 70 countries reported that 60% of their projects will be green by 2018. The study also found that green building is a trillion-dollar industry worldwide and that the market for green building materials alone is expected to reach $234 billion by 2018.

Two years ago, USGBC, in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, put together a study to quantify the economic progress being made by the green building industry. The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study report found that the green construction market is expected to continue its growth in the coming years due to sustained investment in green technologies, manageable inflation rates, increased government infrastructure spending, declines in long-term interest rates and a steady market signal for green construction and resale value. According to our findings, in the United States alone, green construction is estimated to contribute 1.1 million jobs and $75.6 billion in wages by this year.

High returns

In addition to a growing market demand for sustainable development, green buildings also enjoy a lifetime of returns. They offer a high return on investment because they cost less to operate, increase efficiency, reduce operating costs, have a higher resale value, spend less time on the market and enjoy faster lease up rates and reduced risks compared to traditional buildings.

Upfront investment in green building makes properties more valuable with an average increase of 4%. Lower maintenance and energy costs drive the rapid return on investment and retrofit projects are generally expected to pay for themselves in just seven years.

The day-to-day costs on green buildings are also lower as compared to conventional structures. They use natural resources efficiently, lowering both utility bills and impact on the environment. Standard building practices waste millions of tons of material each year while green buildings use fewer resources and minimise waste.

As of October 2017, there were nearly 92,000 registered and certified projects, totalling more than 19.4 billion sq.ft. of building space, participating in LEED across 167 countries and territories. Furthermore, around 2.2 million sq.ft. of space achieves LEED certification every day. LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. Between 2015 and 2018, LEED-certified buildings in the United States are estimated to have more than $2.1 billion billion in combined energy, water, maintenance and waste savings.

These buildings report almost 20% lower maintenance costs than typical commercial structures. Green building retrofit projects decrease operation costs by almost 10% in just one year. LEED projects, which have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills so far, are expected to divert 540 million tons by 2030.

India’s reportcard

According to the Dodge Data & Analytics report 2, emerging economies like India will be engines of green growth, with development varying from twofold to six-fold over current green building levels.

India ranks third among the countries with LEED-certified green buildings. As of October 2017, there were more than 2,500 LEED registered and certified projects, representing more than 1 billion square feet of space in India. In 2016 alone, nearly 650 projects earned LEED certification here. And with 70% of the buildings needed in India by 2030 that haven’t been built yet, LEED is the way to go.

The writer is President & CEO, U.S. Green Building Council and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI)

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