Going Green, Even if the Client Doesn’t Ask

As a developer or design firm committed to sustainable building, it’s often a done deal if a client approaches you about using green design principles. Fine. You’re happy to make the building as environmentally friendly and ecosmart as possible.

However, if your client hasn’t considered green design — or isn’t even aware what it is — how do you gently suggest ingratiating sustainability into a project’s planning and construction?

  • Getting an expert opinion — Some projects, such as the 4040 Campbell Ave. office building in Menlo Park, Calif., include special LEED consultants, architecture firms hired to identify specific ways more credit-worthy elements could be included in the building’s design. This is especially important because aiming for more points than the the minimum LEED requirement is always a good idea, given the final accredited point total can be lower than the original projected point total.
  • Gage your client’s overall goals — If the client has emphasized environmental sensitivity or high-performance characteristics in other projects, green design may be an easier sell — and also, might mean that the client can help tailor how much green design the project will involve. "If the client has technical expertise, it may be able to develop the objectives in detail," the American Institute of Architects advises in its Writing the Green RFP online tool. "If not, broader objectives may be suggested … with the assumption that articulating these specifically will be part of the early project work by the consultants."
  • Know the costs involved (and savings) — The latest LEED study of 33 California buildings built over the last
    10 years showed a green building can pay for itself in three years and has an annual return of 25 percent to 40 percent. The study found that the average cost premium for green is
    1.8 percent, and a total of five buildings had no cost increase at all.
  • Keep the basics in mind — Creating a green design checklist of major goals and ideas before bidding for projects can help you determine which aspects of the project should involve green design. BuildingGreen.com has a good example of such a list.

Suggesting green design is no longer just the job of a project’s architects and developers. It is becoming something  pre-construction buyers, community associations and local governments ask for and encourage — which makes it all the more important that the brains and brawn behind the projects take the time to consider all the green possibilities before starting.