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Nowadays, it pays to be green

John Poole
Vail CO, Colorado

When do you become officially old?

Old is certainly a relative term. For instance, Alan Greenspan may look at Ben Bernanke as a spry young buck, while Strom Thurmond might have envied Greenspan for his youthful exuberance. Or was that irrational exuberance? In any event, Strom Thurmond isn’t envying much at all since he was put six feet under in 2003. What a wild ride it was, though.

My proposition for defining when you’ve become old is when you use the terms, “nowadays” and “back in the day” in the same conversation. The first time you make that inevitable blunder, you’ve just crested the hill, so you might as well hop in one of those obnoxious tires from “Jackass 2″ and enjoy the ride. However there is no need to put leaches on your eye or get in anyway involved with a stallion ” that stuff is just dead wrong.

So nowadays, going green has become the topic of every article and news bit this side of the ozone layer. Back in the day (whenever the hell that was), we heard about the occasional hybrid car and some pie-in-the-sky hydrogen fuel cell, but recently, there has been a shift from exclusive focus on green automobiles and alternative fuels to green buildings. People are not only going green or going home, but they’re going green and going home. Going green in the building industry is becoming just as popular as putting a fish hook through your buddy’s cheek and casting him into shark infested waters. And because buildings consume 70 percent of the energy in this country, this is a good thing, especially since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reported that this past winter has been the warmest on record.

In particular there’s been a sudden onslaught of interest from large corporations in green building technologies. So why are leaders of companies like Wal-Mart, BP, General Electric, and Bank of America throwing tons of green at getting their green on when, up until recently, their interest has been worse than Duke’s performance at this year’s NCAA basketball tournament?

They must have come to a collective agreement to put their emphasis on profits aside and help the world strictly out of the goodness of their hearts.

Well, this isn’t actually that case. Though I believe the leaders of these companies are truly concerned about the fate of our planet, unless these guys are smoking a lot of green, there is probably some financial benefit to what they’re doing. Green building has taken off in the corporate world because it not only makes environmental sense, but financial sense as well. And this really is a good thing. That fact that it took thorough investigation of the financial benefits for the concept to even be considered, well, that’s bad. Fortunately that dilemma is now moot because the numbers cannot be ignored.

In a nutshell, green buildings can save 30 percent of energy costs with construction cost increases below 10 percent (usually closer to 5 percent). So you don’t have to be Pythagoras to do a quick calculation and realize the benefit. You also don’t have to have the risk tolerance of Johnny Knoxville to go green, because the benefits are not only in energy savings.

The most surprising benefit of green buildings in my mind is the effect on worker health and productivity. Basically, if I were writing this in a LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building, I would have finished it an hour ago and moved onto successfully solving the world’s energy problems, thus eliminating the need for LEED buildings altogether.

Maybe it’s not quite that good, but green technologies that increase natural daylight, improve air quality, and reduce the overall toxicity of a building can increase worker productivity by 1-2 percent. And though this doesn’t seem like very much, the financially benefits of greater productivity and lower absenteeism dwarf those of energy savings, and in the very least, will negate all the lost time from NCAA pool wagering.

So throw better health and productivity into the mix and you’ve got a building that pays back 10 times the initial cost of going green.

Green building is also fantastic for public relations. For instance, there is little doubt that Bank of America’s hard push on the green button, including a 51-story skyscraper in New York City, will help counter accusations of credit-card targeting of undocumented aliens (was that out loud?). And there is also little doubt that green Wal-Marts can help battle some perception of the company being a monster determined to put every mom and pop shop into the poorhouse.

Regardless of whether you’re Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Johnny Knoxville, or even Strom Thurmond, it’s difficult the deny the benefits of going green. Nowadays, it’s just the right thing to do.

John Poole, an Eagle-Vail resident, writes a biweekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at poolejohn@gmail.com. Check out his blog at blurium.blogspot.com.


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