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Assignment #6


Master of Science

Environmental Policy and Management

Samantha Osani

University of Denver University College

May 20th, 2018

Instructor: Charles P. Holmes, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.

Director: John Hill, Ph.D.

Dean: Michael McGuire, Ph.D.

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This paper aims to determine if green building options are a cost viable alternative for builders,

and to identify the barriers that exist. Sustainable building is a relevant issue because the

construction industry demands a large amount of resources. To answer the research question,

global studies related to green building are examined. Literature related to green building has

only begun to take shape in the past two decades and touches on many aspects, including but

not limited to, building methods and alternatives, costs and benefits of green building methods,

and sustainability programs and policies implemented by local and global governments. A

questionnaire was provided via email to home builders through the Home Builders Association

of Denver to determine what, if any, costs and barriers exist for them to implement green

building technologies. Results concluded that financial cost was the biggest barrier.
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Table of Contents

Abstract ii

Table of contents iii



Types of building materials and alternatives 3

Barriers, costs, and benefits 5

Sustainability programs and policy 6



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My career in real estate has taken many turns, and I have always wondered where my

place is. In the past few months, it has become glaringly apparent I’m right where I belong.

Currently, I work with a team that deals predominantly with new construction projects in

Denver, Colorado. How do these projects affect the environment and what factors came into

play with planning and building? This study intends to examine how the projects were

proceeding in an environmentally-friendly manner, and how green building alternatives

affected the decisions of builders and investors.

Only in the past couple of decades have we begun to concern ourselves with the scarcity

of resources and the necessity to make the change to sustainable building. Builders and

investors should be concerned about their utilization of natural resources when it comes to

new development projects as well as renovations. These resources are finite, and making the

change to sustainable and green building methods is paramount to their continued economic

success in the construction industry. This is a global issue, and costs will continue to rise until

resources are depleted. If the switch to sustainable building methods does not happen soon,

builders will suffer financially. Not only are green building technologies a positive adaptation for

builders and investors alike, but consumers have become increasingly aware of their own

environmental footprint and are keen to shop with builders that implement green building

technologies in their properties.

The world is projected to run out of oil in the next few decades, the coral reefs are

dying, and the oceans are full of plastic. The construction industry utilizes an alarming portion
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of our resources, and it is vital now more than ever to explore alternative building methods.

The literature examined in the research includes countries from all over the world and has

taken place over the last decade. Much of it focuses on builders and the barriers they face

when pursuing green building alternatives. The largest barrier that builders face, globally, is the

financial cost of green building technologies themselves.

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The literature examined concerning green building includes building technologies and

alternatives, economic costs and benefits, and sustainability programs and policies. The gaps in

the literature exist due to a lack of research into green building, as it is a relatively new

occurrence. Are green building options a cost viable alternative to traditional building methods

and if so, what barriers exist for builders? It is hypothesized that, while costs and barriers exist,

green building options can be viable to builders and are better investments in the long term.

Types of Building Materials and Alternatives

The most important component to this research paper is comparing and contrasting

various types of building materials and technologies. It is critical to examine each material and

their alternatives in terms of affordability and accessibility.

Concrete is the most popular building material globally. Recycled concrete has been

discussed in literature as a cost-effective alternative to simply making new concrete.

Renovating older structures can be costly but recycling the concrete and materials would save

on cost and be more energy efficient. The highest amount of construction waste is caused by

concrete and recycling it would reduce this waste greatly. Recycling building materials has its

roadblocks. “There is no technical knowledge”, the research is limited, and the “recycling

process itself… may not be economically feasible in the short run” (Bababkhani 2016, 2).

Bamboo is a popular construction alternative, especially among developing nations. It

grows rapidly, is abundantly available around the world, releases oxygen as it grows, is 50 times

more energy efficient than steel, is considerably more cost effective than bricks, and has high
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tensile strength to combat wind and earthquakes (Vishal et al. 2016). Using bamboo as a

building alternative in walls and floors saves on cost, in addition to being more environmentally


Affordability is a high priority in developing nations as well as sustainability, and some

literature examines the use of earth as a building material. Methods include the use of mud

bricks, rammed earth, compressed earth blocks, earth infill in timber frame construction, earth

bag building, and others (Sameh 2010). Utilizing earth as an alternative building material is

environmentally friendly, sustainable and biodegradable, can provide good sound and thermal

insulation, and has high durability and flexibility. It also absorbs moisture, which can allow for

plants to grow on building exteriors or roofs. Additionally, earth building materials are better at

protecting people against radiation than that of brick, sandstone, or concrete (Sameh 2010).

The use of solar panels in both business and residential buildings has been steadily

increasing in recent years. Like batteries in electric cars, however, the environmental impact of

solar panels is still not fully understood. For renovations of existing buildings, solar technology

can be more cost-effective and help reduce energy emissions. Life-cycle cost analyses reveal

that solar technology used in the renovation of existing structures reduces energy and

greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to being more economically friendly (Mateus, Silva, and

de Almeida 2017; Palm 2018).

Buildings consumed 73.6% of electricity in 2011, and an average of 35% of that goes

towards heating and cooling (Mullen, Lamsal, and Colson 2013; Tsai et al. 2014). A green

building initiative that is perceived to lower these consumption rates is the implementation of a
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green roof. This is something that is currently being adopted in Denver, Colorado. Green roof

adoption has the potential to decrease energy consumption, decrease storm water

infrastructure management costs, improve air quality, and reduce emissions. Although green

roof implementation can be costly, the reduced costs associated with their operation end up

offsetting the installation costs. The research and conclusions on green roof technology are still

forming and have yet to be revealed.

Barriers, Costs, and Benefits

Global and widespread implementation of green building methods is plagued by many

barriers. The most common barriers are: high cost of green building methods, lack of

government incentives, and lack of financing options (Chan, Darko, Olanipekun, and Ameyaw

2018; Palm 2018). The triple bottom line for sustainability involves economic, social, and

environmental costs, all of which are discussed in literature. There are many environmental

costs of construction, including erosion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, degradation of species

and habitat, and more (Chan et al. 2018).

In green building, life-cycle cost analyses are a dominant theme amongst literature. A

life-cycle analysis helps builders determine the cost of a building in each phase of the building’s

life (Tsai et al. 2014). Comparing the LCAs of green buildings and conventional buildings assist in

builders overcoming financial costs of implementing green building methods.

Green building renovations are becoming increasingly common for older countries

where the majority of buildings are several decades or centuries old. Policy in Europe aims to

reduce energy and carbon emissions, and this cannot be done without renovating existing
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structures to have green building standards. Renovations “increase investment cost and

present environmental impacts due to the new materials and integrated technical systems”

(Mateus, Silva, and de Almeida 2017, 1). To overcome these renovation costs and impacts, LCAs

must be taken into account. Before construction even begins, an LCA has to take place in order

to determine whether or not the renovation will be worth the investment long-term.

Outside of renovating existing structures, new builds pose a different set of

costs and impacts. Much literature ties into the fact that there is limited government incentive

to pursue green building methods. The top costs themselves are truly financial. “From a barrier

perspective, the lack of financial incentives from the government is found to be a prominent

barrier of sustainable construction” (Chang, Rui-dong and Soebarto, Veronica and Zhao, Zhen-

yu and Zillante, George 2016, 535). In addition to lack of government financing, green building

technologies themselves are of higher cost than that of traditional building methods. These

include “green roof technology, solar technology, and prefabricated concrete technology”:

despite these costs, the benefits of implementing these GBTs are “increased water efficiency,

improved productivity, enhanced human health and wellbeing, improved indoor environmental

quality, and higher property value” (Chan, Darko, Olanipekun, and Ameyaw 2018, 1068).

Sustainability Programs and Policy

One of the biggest challenges facing builders and their capacity to implement GBTs is a

lack of government incentives and financial assistance. In the current political climate, short

term payoffs take precedence over long-term consequences. Governments have begun to take

notice of the importance of sustainability, and policies are taking shape. In the EU, policy aims
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to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 20% by the year 2020, and a 20%

increase in renewable energy use (Mateus et al. 2017; Tsai et al. 2014). 25% of the total energy

consumption in Europe comes from residential buildings, making it “an important target for

policies” concerning green building. Green building renovation is therefore a hot topic in

Europe, as a majority of their existing buildings are decades old and in need of GB renovation.

China is a major GBT influencer, as they have spent decades improving their

infrastructure and attempting to lower their carbon and energy emissions. GBT policy is

beginning to take shape in the form of environmental impact assessment laws, regulations on

energy conservation in civil buildings, action plans for promoting green buildings, and more

(Chang, Soebarto, Zhao, and Zillante 2016). New policies implemented by governments to

encourage and shepherd in a new wave of green building include regulation and control,

economic incentives, subsidies, awards, financial innovations, supporting activities,

technological innovation, standards and innovation, demonstration projects, and publicity

(Chang et al. 2016). These are all necessary components to encourage green building on a

global scale, and policies worldwide are still forming.

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The research analyzed quantitative and qualitative data taken from a questionnaire

provided to builders in Denver, Colorado. The median age of builders who provided completed

questionnaires was 44 years old and had been in the construction industry for an average of 12

years. Questions were formed based on common green building practices and the expectation

of the barriers involved. Denver was chosen because of its status as a burgeoning city with a

quickly expanding real estate economy. The data taken represents the current green

building/sustainable construction climate in the Denver Metro area of Colorado. The questions

were created based off of literature related to green building costs and barriers.


In Denver, Colorado, there are 122 home builder companies. The confidence interval

chosen was 2, and the confidence level was 95%, resulting in a sample size of 116 home

builders surveyed. The participants were provided with a disclosure at the beginning of the

questionnaire stating that their answers were to remain anonymous and that there was no

financial incentive to their participation.


The questionnaire was delivered by electronic mail to the participants in order to make

participation easier and quicker. Contact information was obtained through the Home Builders
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Association of Denver. Participants were given 90 days to provide completed questionnaires.

This was chosen in order to maintain consistency in answers, as the construction industry is

constantly evolving, and green building technologies along with it. The first part of the

questionnaire included information related to the study, including the research question,

objectives, and contact information for the person conducting the study. The second part

included information pertaining to demographics, and the third part included questions about

green building methods and their barriers. The questionnaire was created by the researchers as

little data exists currently due to green building being a newer development in the construction

industry. The following questions were included on the questionnaire:

(1) What is your age?

(2) How long have you been in the construction industry?

(3) What green building methods do you utilize? Select all that apply.

Green roofs, solar panels, LEED certification, alternative building materials (bamboo, earth,

recycled concrete), other

(4) Of these methods, which presents the smallest number of barriers to the construction


(5) What are your main concerns when implementing green building methods? Select all that


Actual cost, lack of financing, lack of government incentive, lack of technological knowledge,

accessibility to materials

(6) What do you consider to be the biggest barrier of those selected?

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Many threats currently face the planet, the human race and its activities included. If

society is to keep expanding, alternative building methods must be pursued. Globally, the

construction industry commands a large majority of resources, and it is imperative to seek out

alternatives. Despite these facts, there are barriers and costs for builders who wish to use green

building methods. The financial cost of green building technologies can be daunting, and there

exist limited financial incentive from governments. The literature reveals that green building

technologies are more cost effective long term than traditional building methods, but many

factors must be taken into account. Life cycle analyses can assist builders in keeping costs low

while maintaining profit and construction integrity. Green building technologies are becoming

increasingly popular, and it is a continued conversation between builders and governments.

Of the 116 home builders surveyed, 72 provided complete questionnaires, for a

response rate of 62%. The median age of the 72 builders who provided completed

questionnaires was 44 years old, and they had been in the construction industry for an average

of 12 years. The most commonly used green building method used was LEED certification,

followed by solar panels. The least commonly used method was the use of recycled materials;

this is due to the new emergence of the technologies, and limited knowledge and research.

LEED certification posed the least amount of barriers to builders, while green roof

implementation posed the most. The top concern of builders for implementing green building
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methods was the financial cost of individual green building technologies; this aligns with

current literature related to costs of GBTs.

Green building alternatives are a relatively new concept only introduced in the past

couple of decades and therefore the literature and data has been limited. The general results of

the survey will be compiled and presented to home builder associations along the Denver

Metro area to encourage the use of green building technologies. The intent of sharing the

results is to educate home builders on the costs and benefits of using green building

technologies, and to inform them of the importance of implementing them as a sustainable

business model. It should impress upon them that continuing to use natural resources is not

economically feasible and pursuing green building alternatives is more profitable long-term.
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Almeida, Manuela and Mateus, Ricardo and Ferreira, Marco and Rodrigues, Ana. 2017. “Life-
cycle costs and impacts on energy-related building renovation assessments.”
International Journal of Sustainable Building Technology and Urban Development

Bababkhani, Reza. 2016. “Sustainable Architecture and Urban Planning with a View to Recycling
and Renewable Resource Management.” Journal of Architectural Engineering
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Bredenoord, Jan. 2017. “Sustainable Building Materials for Low-cost Housing and the
Challenges Facing their Technological Developments: Examples and Lessons Regarding
Bamboo, Earth-Block Technologies, Building Blocks of Recycled Materials, and Improved
Concrete Panels.” Journal of Architectural Engineering Technology 6 no. 1 (March).

Chan, Albert and Darko, Amos and Olanipekun, and Ameyaw, Ernest Effah. 2018. “Critical
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Chan, Albert and Darko, Amos and Olanipekun, Ayokunle Olubunmi and Ameyaw, Ernest Effah.
2017. “Examining issues influencing green building technologies adoption: The United
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Chang, Rui-dong and Soebarto, Veronica and Zhao, Zhen-yu and Zillante, George. 2016.
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Mullen, Jeffrey D and Lamsal, Madhur and Colson, Greg. 2013. “Green Roof Adoption in
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