Table of Contents

Review of Books on Green Buildings – Part 7

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Summary of the Green Building Bottom Line: The Real Cost of Sustainable Building

The Green Building Bottom Line highlights the case for greening buildings through its information and insights that demonstrate the inherent costs and benefits of greening buildings and facilities. The green themes covered by this book includes the ecological and economic benefits of turning green, assessment of sustainability in existing buildings, financial gains out of green tenancy, analysis of loans and expense reduction, underwriting insurances, brokering sustainability, writing a green lease, renovating an old building, green retailing, human resource practices which focus on green orientation and culture, among others.

It shows all of these themes through its depicted company, Melaver, Inc. It shows how the organization created a cohesive culture after it has installed its own value system. The company initially realized that a company must first be self-sustained in terms of its relationship to its community and its culture. The company created a framework for enhancing an organization’s authenticity in their environmental messages and mission. Then, it evolved into its ground-breaking initiatives and renovations. Its management carefully renovated its building according to LEED standards.

The book emphasizes the need to address the green value towards various stakeholders. All these benefits to stakeholders are interpreted to enhance the value of green development. The book also presents the crucial tools that allow the green developer to work in an integrated way – from the green philosophy to stakeholders’ benefits, and public wellness, among others. It then concludes that sustainable development must be inspired by a true sense of environmental stewardship.

The book also pushes for sustainable brokerage. This brokerage supports real estate choices that are wholesome – business-wise, community-wise and also god for the environment. It is highly influenced by the broker’s ample involvement in external planning and environmental stewardship. It encourages green brokers to head on for green projects as they are considered to be good messengers of the green practices. Their positive relationships with their real estate clients give them a special position to teach their clients, promote green structures and enhance the general enlightenment on achieving a triple bottom line.

Other topics include the legal rudiments and improvements in the development and construction of green buildings are still in its initial phase. The authors detail the various legal issues surrounding the real estate industry in their road to greenness. A general perspective on real estate development was also set. Melaver, Inc. is illustrated as a pioneering company which reaped its rewards after applying its green strategies. The balancing act is that the company outwit the challenge of being green and smart. With the help of its external marketing agency and its public relations, it has communicated its green initiatives to its advantage. These agencies helped Melaver highlight the emerging challenges of green marketing. It sets the stage to how the company was able to establish itself as a profitable green company amidst the failures of brands and an increasing need for values in the corporate world.

Greatest Unmet Need in the Market Place in Terms of Information or Best Practices

The books offered various pathways and road maps towards greening. It explored the paths taken by successful companies which jumped into the green bandwagon. However, it failed to show the complete picture in “greening” business operations in a grander context of sustainable development in a timelier context of global economy. Most of the cases portrayed in the five books only showed the greening of the businesses in the local contexts. It fails to show how a global company can sustain its global operations and meet the global standards and requirements for product excellence while maintaining its environmental seal.

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The books overemphasized on the greening trends in the context of gaining more profits. However, it failed to depict the global contexts of environmental compliance in achieving global business operations and strategies. They failed to stress that the increasing environmental concerns and the strong public consciousness and the stringent regulations are major impetus to make companies go green. Hence, they failed to connect sustainable objectives with these contexts. This becomes rudimentary since companies actually need to make environmental compliance. Thus, they will need to improve on their environmental performance. Thus, businesses introduce environmental risk management and avoid the costs of regulatory penalties and their environmental liabilities.

As most companies now go global, they need to be aware and subservient to new environmental policies in both the national and international levels. Hence, businesses are forced to improve their environmental performance. But compliance often creates unexpected costs that threaten profitability. Most of the time, companies comply with environmental regulations without internalizing the long term advantages of going green. In the more pragmatic sense, they are bent to follow the policies because the costs it will accrue frightens them. As companies evade costs, they tend to subscribe to a more comprehensive environmental and sustainable development programs.


The unmet needs lie in the strategies for sustainable development or the adoption of activities and strategies that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders whilst protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future. In the context of global growth and development, companies must strategize beyond environmental requirements. It must be emphasized that the environment is plainly one of the main components of sustainable development. (O’Brien, 2001) There must also be a focus on the core strategies addressing the society and the economy where the business lies. Environmental protection is paramount yet it is not enough. Companies also need a blueprint on how to achieve sustainable development through the exploration of the relationships between environmental, social and economic benefits. This unmet need was not answered by any part of the five books reviewed.

The five books also failed to highlight the technological tools which can make greening initiatives by companies more comprehensive and easy. Information technology, for instance, continues to emerge as a key strategic tool that enables companies to support enterprise-wide efforts in corporate sustainability. These tools need to be presented as they apply and make successes in several business settings. Best practices can be mainly culled from this technological aspect and many companies can follow their initiatives in greening.

To point this out, the books focused on constructing and designing green buildings and facilities yet it failed to propose IT efforts in greening. IT can help companies in energy-efficiency more than any other business component. It can be used in the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of office buildings. (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2009) It can make headway sin energy management. Steven Moore, a professor at the University of Texas and founder of the university’s Center for Sustainable Development (CSD), found out that the larger part of emissions come from architecture. It is from the construction, operation and decommissioning of buildings. (Ibid.) To illustrate the dramatic reduction of energy consumption achieved through IT, Nokia of Finland showed that reducing office space by means of using mobile offices lower energy consumption in Nokia offices in New York, China and UK more than thirty percent. (Ibid.)

Another important factor which did not concretely come out of the five books is the costs of greening. How much does it cost for companies to go green? There were no detail discussions of how much did environmentalism cost to a company, how the company source out funds and resources to fund their greening projects and what is the return of this investments in terms of money and other elements. These are the crucial factors to consider in turning green and making one’s competitive strategy and advantage anchored into greening. Most of the time, the books discussed how the greening movement will turn out as a potential viable and profitable venture for a company. However, there were no hard data to support this claim. There are no models to follow in terms of how strategizing for one’s business was financially supported and was made possible and eventually succeeded.

In a 2009 article in Edge Economy entitled “What Would a Fair Labor iPod Cost?, Hague (2009) detailed that green products is not just about making an innovative design, it is also about the social costs of producing the said product. In the case of iPod, the author generally commented on the poor labor conditions of the Apple’s Chinese workers. The interesting question is the cost of the god when good labor is used.

According to Hague (2009), the Sloan Foundation research rounded up the cost of god labor in a global company’s operations to costs more than 23% than the traditional sweatshop produced products. Apple’s iPod is just $4 in terms of hourly labor in a China manufacturing plant. This is for an average of 2.7 hours of labor for the Chinese arte of working. (Ibid.) The standard labor rate for the United States would entail a cost which is $58. This price differential is not factored in as a true cost in terms of competitiveness because the general trend in commercial or capitalist books, with financial settings, is to assess the true costs in terms of its economic costs. However, this is not the inherent message in greening. If the true costs of greening are to be factored in, then, the good costs should reflect the real human costs of labor. This must be higher and this shows the unsustainably high macro imbalances that the old and current businesses have made.

According to Elqin (207), companies are still evaluating their green moves with their company’s old ROI or return-on-investment analysis. Hence, there is no big difference. This implied that environmental initiatives are really long shot deals. Moreover, in contrast to its hype, most of the green initiatives are not really cost savers. Environmentalism is not so cheap, at all and the returns of investments are not so fast.

A sad reality for business is that they have to contend with the huge costs of going green. This is a long term project. According to The International Energy Agency, the total amount it will costs us to go green is $45 trillion. (Kanter, 2008) Hence, even when companies try to do so much with their initiatives, it is really a long shot. Thus, the books’ unmet needs are the environmental requirements of companies now in order for them to be compliant and move towards greening their companies one step at a time, in the context of cost management.

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References

Elqin, B. (October 29, 2007). Little Green Lies. Bloomberg Businessweek. Web. Retrieved from, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_44/b4056001.htm.

Esty, D. & Winston, A. (January, 2009). Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage. New Jersey: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated.

Hague, U. (July 30, 2009). What Would a Fair-Labor iPod Cost? Businessweek Online. Web. Retrieved from, http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/
jul2009/ca20090731_483871.htm.

Harvard Business Review on Green Business Strategy. (November 1, 2007). Harvard: Harvard Business School Press.

Kanter, J. (June 6, 2008). How Much Does It Cost to Go Green? The Answer is $45 trillion. The New York Times Online. Web. Retrieved from, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/how-much-does-it-cost-to-go-green-the-answer-is-45-trillion/

Melaver, M. & Mueller, P. (October, 2008). The Green Building Bottom Line: The Real Cost of Sustainable Building, 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

O’Brien, D. (2001). Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility with Competitive Strategy. Georgia State University. Web.

The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2009). IT and sustainability: Bringing best practices to the business. Web.

Townsend, A. (November, 2006). Green Business: A Five-part Model for Creating an Environmentally Responsible Company. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing.

Yudelson, Jerry. (2006). Marketing green buildings: guide for engineering, construction and architecture. Michigan: Fairmont Press.

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