Value of green buildings

Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback - August 2014

Research by Sweett Group and BRE has challenged the perception that sustainable buildings are necessarily more costly to build. By applying cost data from real construction projects to three case study buildings – an office, a secondary school and a community healthcare centre – detailed capital and operational cost information has been obtained.

The study investigated the capital costs of design and construction strategies that enhance building sustainability and help to achieve BREEAM ratings. They include low-cost or no-cost actions that can readily be used to enhance building sustainability (‘quick wins’), and those initiatives that must be built into the project by the end of concept stage to minimise their costs. Detailed cost information for a wide selection of these actions is presented in this report.

The research team also examined the life cycle costs of operating buildings, focusing on energy and water consumption. They found that specifying sustainability measures during the building’s design and procurement stage can result in cost savings over the operational life of the building for little or no additional upfront cost. The effect on capital costs of achieving varying levels of sustainability was calculated, with the costs associated with gaining Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent BREEAM ratings outlined in this report. It has been shown that achieving lower BREEAM ratings can incur little or no additional cost.

Targeting the higher BREEAM ratings, which equate with more challenging sustainability levels, incurs some additional cost but this is typically less than 2%. The study of operational costs shows that this can be paid back within 2–5 years through utility cost savings.

For a snapshot of more detailed capital and lifecycle costs data click here.

This is a link to a presentation from the breakfast briefing 'Green Buildings Pay!' held during World Green Building Week, September 2014).

This study complements and adds to a growing body of recently published evidence on the costs and value of sustainability. This evidence supports the findings that, where properly implemented, sustainability strategies add little to capital costs, that operational savings will pay back these costs and that there is a downward trend in sustainability costs.  


Executive summary


Our approach

Case study 1: Office

Case study 2: Secondary school

Case study 3: Community healthcare centre 


Appendix A: Capital and life cycle modelling and assumptions

Appendix B: Assessment timeline

References and further reading




Clients, designers, cost consultants, specifiers, contractors and academics.

  • Provides broad cost information on achieving a range defined levels of sustainability for three different building types considered, in varying locations.
  • Highlights the life-cycle cost savings that can be made on energy and water consumption.


Order a copy

Delivering sustainable buildings: Savings and payback (FB63)

Yetunde Abdul, BRE and Richard Quartermaine, Sweett Group

Published by IHS BRE Press, 7 August 2014

ISBN 978184806362, A4, 52pp, 10 drawings & 7 photos

£45, Subscriber Price £36. Order copies from BRE Bookshop – available in hard copy and pdf download.