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You might think that going green means choosing the environment at the expense of your wallet. After all, organic produce costs more at the grocery store, and sustainably produced clothing commands a premium on store shelves. However, when it comes to building, going green can actually save you some green as well.

In fact, slightly more buyers build green for economic incentives over environmental benefits. Building green can help you realize energy and water savings, reduce construction costs, increase your property value, decrease infrastructure strain, and allow you to qualify for tax breaks.

For engineers, architects, developers, and contractors, going green is about using the right raw materials and a smart design to create a more efficient structure. For example, heating and cooling can be the most energy-intensive processes in a home. But architects and contractors can make adjustments to increase efficiency. By planning ahead, they can ensure that a building faces a certain direction to allow for more natural heat in a cold climate. Or, on the flip side, they could position it under consistent shade in a hot climate.

Recycled materials or a well-planned design can often save you money. In situations where the green option does cost more, it’s usually an upfront investment that will lead to greater savings over time. While there are many ways to go green, the following solutions are an important part of any green building strategy, whether you’re working on a residential or commercial project.

Stormwater Management

Addressing stormwater and runoff management should be a high priority for builders and property owners. After all, more extreme weather patterns are battering areas around the country with storms and floods, and more land is being developed with impervious materials. The latter prevents stormwater and runoff from draining into the soil, meaning more pressure on sewer systems and the environment. Look for alternatives to concrete or asphalt barriers to reduce this problem.

For instance, Truegrid Pavers has designed a cost-effective, recycled plastic paving solution that creates a durable yet permeable surface that water can easily pass through. When the company built a 175,000 square-foot parking lot in Houston in preparation for the 2020 BMX World Championships, Truegrid utilized 231,000 pounds of recycled plastic to help the organization reduce its overall costs while adding 100 parking spaces.

Green Construction Materials

Consider using recycled glass, drywall, steel, and other recycled materials. You’ll often reap an immediate cost savings in addition to the environmental benefit. And turn to renewable resources when you can — like using bamboo or recycled fiber carpets to replace traditional flooring. There are obvious long-term savings to be had: Spending $4 per square foot on green materials is projected to yield a $58 per square foot savings over the next 20 years.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, businesses pay less than 2 percent extra on average for green building features. And they’re estimated to recoup as much as seven times that initial expense over the life of the building. With the addition of federal and state government rebates and other financial incentives, the green option starts to look downright attractive. The U.S. Department of Energy even has a database listing government incentives and programs that promote energy-efficient practices so you can see what’s offered in your state.

Smart Design

There are many ways in which design can save money while reducing environmental impact. Cool roofs, for instance, can lessen your energy use and extend the lifetime of your roof, both of which save you money in the long term, according to the Department of Energy. Better yet, the initial cost outlay is not necessarily more than for a non-cool roof.

Other smart design implementations include well-insulated windows. Taking the local climate into account, full-length windows can be positioned either to face the sun or to face away from it, depending on whether you want to encourage or discourage solar gain. Solar water heating is another feature can save lots of energy, and implementing this technology could prove to be well worth the reduction in energy bills.

Environmentally friendly building options don’t have to be expensive. When it comes time to begin your next project, remember that the right decisions can benefit both the planet and your budget.


By Anna Johansson

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna loves enjoying the great outdoors with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.