5 Cost Benefits of Green Infrastructure—Landscapes Can Do More And Save More

Dan Stever on Sep 13, 2017 9:25:14 AM

Before committing to any type of property investment—landscaping or otherwise—the first question most owners ask is: What’s the cost? As a steward of their budgets and mindful of ROI, property owners want validation the dollars they spend on a project will pay off—and generate additional revenue or provide cost savings.

So, it makes sense when we bring up the subject of green infrastructure, facility managers want to know how a higher upfront cost for a project will pay off (and then some) over the long-term. Here, we’ll go into detail about the range of cost benefits you can gain by investing in green infrastructure—and we’ll explain how the upfront cost of green infrastructure is not always more than “gray” (or traditional) infrastructure.

You need to get the facts before making any buying decision. So, let’s walk through the 5 cost benefits you’ll realize if you choose to take on a green infrastructure project on your Central Kentucky property.

#1 Lower Heating and Cooling Costs

There are several strategies for reducing energy costs.  Some projects, like planting trees, require a small input for a big return. The shade under a mature tree can be 10 - 15 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas.  Strategically placed trees can reduce energy costs as much as 35% during peak summer and winter months.

Other projects, like a green roof, require a greater initial investment but still provide a big return in reducing lifetime costs. The initial cost of a green roof might cost more than installing traditional roofing, but by installing and maintaining a living roof you can reduce heating and cooling costs. A University of Michigan study demonstrates how a 21,000 square-foot green roof will save $200,000 over its lifetime vs. a regular roof. Also, typical buildings experience a 15% to 25% savings in summertime energy costs with a green roof.

green roof#2 Extend the Life of Roofing

Not only will a green roof help stabilize the temperature inside your building because plants absorb heat rather than directly hitting the roof surface—a green roof will actually last two to three times longer than a traditional roof, according to the Green Roof Technology Forum. The green roof protects the surface from UV damage. Not to mention, a green roof will reduce the amount of pervious surface on your property and provide rainwater harvesting benefits.

#3 Best ROI With Pervious Parking Lots

Permeable pavers are a sustainable alternative to concrete and asphalt. They help reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality by filtering out particulates and debris before they enter our waterways. A UC Davis study tracked the costs of traditional impervious parking lots versus permeable parking lots. The study compared all costs from installation to 25 years’ worth of maintenance for each type of parking lot surface. Permeable paving was found to save more than $64,000 when compared to traditional asphalt. And there are additional savings to be had by replacing impervious surfaces on your property with pervious surfaces.


#4 Reduce Stormwater Management Fees

Rain Garden

The more impervious surface, the more rainwater run-off—and the more stress on the storm water system. When you convert hard surfaces into pervious surfaces including permeable pavers, rain gardens and green roofs, you alleviate the pressure on storm water sewers. Municipalities recognize the benefits of green infrastructure and the associated reduced impact on storm sewers, so depending on the jurisdiction, you can realize a discount on stormwater management fees. The fee reduction depends on the municipality. Properties are charged stormwater fees based on the square footage of impervious surface.

Additionally, rainwater harvesting systems and stormwater quality units can improve water quality and potentially reduce stormwater fees even further.

#5 Improve Employee Performance

Green infrastructure can improve employee performance because nature is good medicine! Exposure to nature can reduce fatigue, improve efficiency and increase job satisfaction, according to a study by the University of Washington, Green Cities: Good Health. Green infrastructure improves morale and offers an outlet for physical activity (which means getting a positive kick from endorphins). Green spaces also give employees an opportunity to socialize and build stronger relationships, which promotes creativity and can also improve employee retention. Happy employees stick around!

Employers are losing a significant amount of money on lost productivity from employees who show up to work—but aren’t working to their full potential. The concept is called “presenteeism,’ and it’s costing employers billions of dollars. Green infrastructure on properties gives people a mental break from their work so they can refresh and return to tasks with energy (and efficiency!).


Green Infrastructure—Think Long-Term, Weigh Costs and Benefits

21055066_1429547303748033_8397630495687089106_o.jpgWhile you might invest more in green infrastructure project initially, the direct and indirect savings gained from mindful landscaping is measurable. There are grants available that match dollars invested, giving property owners a tool they can use to help absorb the upfront expense. Also, it’s important to note not all green infrastructure projects cost more than traditional methods—particularly when you’re talking about high-volume or large-scale projects municipalities pursue. For example, New York City wanted to capture 10% of runoff in combined sewer overflow in areas of the city. To do this with green infrastructure, the cost was estimated at $1.5 billion while traditional infrastructure was estimated at $4 billion. The water savings from green infrastructure was projected to be 1.5 billion gallons.

The lesson: When considering green infrastructure, do a cost-benefit analysis that figures in not just the initial project cost—but the savings over time and the cost of not pursuing the green infrastructure project. For example, by choosing traditional infrastructure or not doing a storm water management project, a property might flood several times a year. This is a high cost to business owners who have to file insurance claims (and probably pay more for premiums, as a result), experience a loss of goods/products and decreased productivity and efficiency because of the business interruption.


Let’s Talk About How Your Investment In Green Infrastructure Will Pay Off

Let’s walk your property and discuss the ways green infrastructure could save you money. By taking on projects gradually, over time, you can make a marked positive impact on your budget, performance and on the world around you. Because perhaps the greatest thing about green infrastructure is the impact you make is not confined to your property’s borders. It extends to the ecosystem beyond and works to make a better, healthier environment for the community.

Call us any time in Lexington at 859.254.0762 and Louisville at 502.264.0127. Or, fill out this simple contact form to request a proposal.

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