Green infrastructure can offer numerous financial benefits that are real and quantifiable. Depending on the type of practice used, financial benefits may include:
- Operational cost savings associated with lower maintenance needs and lower building heating and cooling costs.
- Increased property values associated with more appealing landscape elements and improved opportunities for recreation.
- Improved public perception of the project and thus a faster public review phase (and less money spent on carrying costs).
- Potential (in some cases) for decreased review periods and fewer design revisions at the local or regional level.
- Marketing “stories” related to landscape and recreational appeal, better social and environmental conditions, and LEED and sustainability metrics.
Many studies have shown that green infrastructure can help you save on long-term operations costs through savings in building energy use (specifically for green roofs), landscape maintenance, and potable water use.
- Energy cost savings. For buildings with a green roof installed, there are cost savings associated with reductions in heating and cooling needs due to better insulation (General Services Administration, 2011). When estimating the exact value of energy savings for a specific green roof, it is helpful to think of the roof’s layer of plants and soil as simply insulation. Opportunities vary based on the size and type of your building, the overall site design, and the intended use.
- Landscape maintenance cost savings. Landscape maintenance costs can be reduced because green infrastructure practices require little or no mowing, fertilizing, liming, dethatching, and aeration, and significantly less weeding compared to typical lawns or planting beds. In addition, green infrastructure practices don’t need to be watered as frequently.
- Potable water cost savings. Green infrastructure that incorporates rainwater harvesting for irrigation, toilet flushing, or industrial processes can significantly reduce costs associated with potable water service fees (CNT, 2010).
“Compared to the original gray infrastructure approach, using a bioretention basin eliminated significant installation and long term maintenance costs, while providing a much more aesthetically pleasing stormwater facility. The client found both to be cogent justifications to authorize a design change, and the green infrastructure approach was well received by the Township.”
– Jeromie Lange, P.E. Senior Principal, Maser Consulting
Green infrastructure can improve the appearance of the landscape, and thus increase property value. Both home prices and commercial spending have been linked to the presence of green amenities, which can improve the character, visual quality, and overall “feel” of your development. This has tremendous implications if you are weighing the costs of “green” stormwater management versus the costs of a subsurface system.
Multiple studies have linked public green space and street trees with increased property value and spending:
- An analysis of residential property in Philadelphia found a ten percent increase in the value of residences that were located near green infrastructure practices (Sustainable Business Network, The Economic Impact of Green Cities, Clean Waters, 2016).
- On commercial property, the presence of green infrastructure related plantings is associated with 5-7 percent higher rents (Wolf, City Trees and Property Values, 2007).
- Research on consumer behavior in shopping districts has found that customers are willing to pay significantly more for goods—up to 8-12 percent—to shop in landscaped areas with mature tree canopy (NRDC, 2013).
- A study of apartment building rental rates in New York City found that buildings with a green roof can charge 16 percent higher rents after other factors have been controlled (Ichihara & Cohen, New York City Property Values: What Is the Impact of Green Roofs on Rental Pricing? 2011).
Put simply, green infrastructure can help make your site a place where people want to spend time—to live, shop, relax outdoors, or take a morning walk. This increased foot traffic and curb appeal can lead to direct financial benefit.
In Philadelphia, green infrastructure is associated with a 10% increase in property values, a 7% increase in commercial office rents and a 5% increase in apartment rents. (GSI Partners / Econsult Solutions, 2016)
There are several ways in which developers can use green infrastructure to add value to projects and differentiate their brand in the marketplace. Financial benefits can be marketed as valuea-dded amenities (for example, lower operating costs) that create a competitive advantage. Indirect benefits can be leveraged to align the project with a social and environmental purpose that can resonate with like-minded customers. In some cases, customers may even be willing to pay a premium for these types of services, as evidenced by the ongoing popularity of “green building” products, and LEED developments.
Another way of marketing green infrastructure is through the use of landscape photography to document the visual aesthetic of the site, such as the aerial photo below used to represent the appearance and character of a cutting-edge park designed for the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
The NJDEP requires that nonstructural stormwater management strategies be used “to the maximum extent practicable.” However, that standard is open to interpretation, and this uncertainty can lead to longer review periods. As the saying goes, “time is money.”
Site designs that incorporate green infrastructure as an integral part of the landscape and that help meet nonstructural strategies can help ensure that the “maximum extent practicable” standard is met up-front in any jurisdiction without extensive deliberation and revisions during the permit review phase. The section that follows provides further detail on how different types of green infrastructure can be used to assist in meeting the requirements and thus advance the permit process and reduce overhead expense.
“The highest cost in redevelopment is the cost of money over time. Whatever helps me get my building permits faster is money in the bank.”
– George Vallone, President, Hoboken Brownstone Company, and Chairman, Board of Directors of the New Jersey Builders Association