Sunday, February 27, 2011

Green Building Benefits


Hello Nate,I hope all is well. I just had a class last night and one of the students is interested in doing a research paper on green building. I recall that this is your specialty - is that right? She is a bit lost and I can't help much with that subject. I was wondering if you could recommend any good books, or ideally, any good journal articles which discuss the economics of green building - ie. cost benefits analysis/ long term benefits. Anything you could suggest would be appreciated.


No problem. There aren't nearly as many resources on the cost effectiveness as I'd like to see, but I'll share what I know. The USGBC tries to collect all of this and has a list under "Research Publications" Here's the link:

One of the sub-headings is "Cost Analysis of Whole Buildings". The 2009 Kats and the 2007 paper by Langdon are probably your best bets for general cost / benefits studies.

As for the value of green buildings, CoStar Advisor has put out some reports:

I think the New Buildings Institute has one as well, but I didn't find it in my quick search.

Here's one on the benefits of increased productivity:

Here's another good one on financial benefits / feasibility of green buildings (globally focused):

This should get your student started. The USGBC site has lots of papers, but I should warn you that they're a mix of quality, with very few being from peer reviewed journals. If she refines the research question a bit more (what component of green buildngs? energy efficiency? re-sale value? increased occupant comfort? reduced risk of cancer? which type of green building? commercial offices? schools? homes? etc.) feel free to contact me for additional info. Not really any good books on the benefits, but some decent ones on how to design / build a green building if she does a search on the subject.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Selecting Low-Maintenance Plants

Are you aware of a recognized standard that identifies "low-maintenance/indigenous" plantings for sustainable landscaping in different geographies?

I don’t know of any guide that identifies native / adapted vegetation (low-maintenance) for the entire US and was always at a loss when asked by a design team. Plant selection changes a lot based on region and even local microclimate. For the most part, anything local is always a safe bet. For adapted plants, you want something that doesn’t require much water, fertilizer, or maintenance and won’t get out of control. The general rule is also to avoid turf grass as much as possible and use lots of mulch. If you are putting the landscaping out to bid, you could include a performance requirement that says plants must be native to the area or require minimal maintenance, etc. The attached documents might help you define xeriscaping or a process each site should employ when selecting plants. For example, you could emphasize the 7 principles found here:

This site is supposed to let you select water efficient plants, but I can’t get it to work:

There are a few good sites for specific regions. For example:
Austin, TX:

You might also want to check out one of these books:
“Landscape Plants for Western Regions: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation”
“Waterwise Landscaping with Trees, Shrubs, and Vines: A Xeriscape Guide for the Rocky Mountain Region, California, and the Desert Southwest”
“Plants for Natural Gardens: Southwestern Native & Adaptive Trees, Shrubs, Wildflowers & Grasses”

A good landscaper should be able to help you define this for your site (as should a good nursery):

Association of Professional Landscape Designers:

American Society of Landscape Architects:

I hope this helps and good luck,