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How “going green” with building & maintenance can put your company in the black

The Chicago City Hall side of this building utilizes a green roof, while the Cook County side does not. (September 2009)
The Chicago City Hall side of this building utilizes a green roof, while the Cook County side does not. (September 2009)
Audrey F. Henderson -- all rights reserved

Many companies have adopted the idea of "going green" in conducting their internal affairs or as an overall focus for doing business. As a result, these companies often significantly minimize their environmental impact. In addition, companies that employ green building and maintenance practices enjoy a number of advantages, ranging from an enhanced public image to improved employee working conditions and a more robust bottom line.

Improved customer image

Customers are influenced in their purchasing decisions by whether a business shows environmental consciousness. For instance, Environmental Leader reported in 2007 that 72 percent of rental customers wanted hybrid vehicles included among rental car options, according to a survey conducted by Nearly half of all cell phone customers consider a mobile carrier provider's "green" credentials, according to a 2009 ABI Research report cited by Green Electronics Daily. In a tough housing market, 70 percent of potential home buyers were more inclined to purchase homes with "green" features, according to LOHAS Online, (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) quoting the 2008 Green SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics entitled "The Green Home Consumer: Driving Demand for Green Homes." Customers also and tend to remain loyal to "green" companies during economic downturns, claims.

Enhanced worker productivity

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines "sick building syndrome" to refer to health-related complaints by workers that cannot be attributed to a particular cause. A similar condition, "building related illness," applies to health-related complaints directly related to airborne contaminants. Symptoms of "sick building syndrome" and "building related illness" include respiratory distress, headache, fatigue and dizziness, according to the EPA. A survey of 100 office workers revealed that 23 percent suffered symptoms related to "sick building syndrome," according to the New York Real Estate Journal, citing research from the ASHRAE Journal (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers).

The nationwide cost in lost productivity related to "sick building syndrome" amounts to 2 percent annually, according to New York Real Estate Journal. Increasing indoor ventilation and reducing the indoor concentration of carbon dioxide to meet the standards established by LEED V3 (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), diminishes complaints related to "sick building syndrome," claims Just Venting, citing research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. LEED V3 standards for indoor ventilation call for a 30 percent increase above the 2007 ASHRAE 62.1 ventilation standard of 20 cubic feet per minute (CFM) per person. Substituting nontoxic building materials, cleaning supplies and office equipment that do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) greatly reduces airborne contaminants related to "building related illness."

Indoor temperature and light conditions also affect worker productivity, either favorably or adversely. Workers subjected to poor temperature control (whether too hot or too cold) suffered slowed reaction times, Greener Buildings claims. In contrast, a Lockheed facility in California that reduced artificial indoor lighting by 75 percent in favor of increased natural light experienced a 15 percent increase in worker productivity, according to the New York Real Estate Journal, citing a report by the Rocky Mountains Institute.

Increased bottom line benefits

As of 2007, the value of the worldwide "green" business market was $600 billion, Time magazine claims. Industry giants such as Wal-Mart, Toyota and Du Pont have embraced environmentally conscious business practices, as much to reduce their operating costs, increase market share and gain a larger profit margin as to enhance their "green" credentials, reports. Federal, state and local tax incentives also exist for businesses to adopt energy saving measures, purchase environmentally conscious vehicles or construct and maintain "green" buildings, according to online legal advice portal Nolo and tax attorney Roni Deutch, writing for her website Tax Help Blog. Businesses could also gain tax credits and deductions for installing "green" heating, cooling and lighting systems, according to the Tax Incentives Assistance Project.


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