Going green yields higher rents and lower costs
Building a high-spec 'green' building adds as little as 2pc to construction bills but results in higher rental yields and lower running costs, as well as helping to reduce carbon emissions.
Chief executive of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), Thomas Mueller, told the Irish Independent that pension funds are increasingly investing in green building projects, because it makes for "very good business".
And he said that going green could be of particular benefit to Irish developers, given the high cost of energy here.
Founded in 2002, the CaGBC is a market-driven organisation which help disseminate information to industry and government and develop best practice.
It uses the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification process, which rates buildings as silver, gold or platinum.
"We built the business case for green buildings - the economic costs and benefits, the social benefits like health and productivity, and the environmental benefits," Mr Mueller said.
"You make money, you enhance the natural environment and they're good for people to live and work.
"It has flourished in Canada, and around 2,000 buildings are built to LEED standard. The architects and engineers, and then government, drove this.
"Since 2004, all major cities in Canada have LEED, for buildings including schools, offices, waste transfer stations and multi-unit residential developments."
The system can be applied to both existing and new builds.
One building in Vancouver, Canada - the 27-storey 1075 West Georgia - was built in 1968 but has achieved LEED Gold, while the Waterfront Centre at 200 Burrard, completed in 1992, has the same rating.
High ratings are achieved through a combination of both simple and high-tech solutions.
These include replacing light bulbs with more efficient, low-consumption LEDs which last longer and reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 4C, cutting air-conditioning bills.
Heating and cooling systems are upgraded, and low-flush toilers and low-flow taps are installed. Investment in capital works are typically repaid within five years.
Many Canadian cities, including Toronto, also have green roof bylaws. Failure to install one requires the developer to pay a financial levy.
However, Mr Mueller said the cost of implementing these measures was not prohibitive.
"I would say doing an LEED silver building doesn't cost anything," he said. "For LEED Gold, it might add 2pc (to costs). For platinum, it's maybe up to 6pc.
"But the payback comes from much lower operational costs, and in Europe this would be better because there are higher energy costs.
"LEED certified buildings command superior rents, and retention (of tenants) is better. Employers want these buildings as well."
While best practice is being employed in Ireland, just 265 buildings have an 'A' rating.
The Department of Education is at the forefront of Irish public bodies going green, with all new schools now achieving an 'A3' rating.
UCD's Roebuck Hall student accommodation performs better than similarly-sized buildings, while ESB's new €150m headquarters in Dublin will also achieve an 'A' rating, and uses 60pc less energy than a typical office block and 70pc less water than a comparable building.