One conclusion from a study of micro principles (i.e., no free lunch economics) is that construction with high quality, energy efficient designs and materials will inevitable cost more and lead to higher housing prices. Proponents of green building argue that it is not expensive. Part of the argument is that green building is a free lunch (the extra costs of building better really are zero). Part of the argument is that the upfront costs are balanced by longterm energy savings. But sometimes those energy savings
don't may not arise as expected. Here is an example ...
From the Washington Policy Center blog (mission: To promote free-market solutions through research and education):
"In addition to contributing to a healthier learning environment, high-performance schools are expected to reduce energy costs. A school in Spokane built in compliance with the protocol estimates its annual energy savings at about $40,000 a year."
A quick fact check shows that the number is not only wrong, but isn't even reasonable. The three elementary schools using the green building standards in Spokane have average annual energy costs of about $44,000 a year each. Schools would have to be reducing their energy costs by 90% a year.
Taking a closer look shows that no schools are even close to saving that much. Based on a projection of improvement in utility (energy, water, garbage, etc.) costs per square foot, the best school, Lincoln Heights (pictured above), is saving approximately $9,000 per year versus the costs per square foot of the building it replaced. On the other hand, Lidgerwood Elementary, another green school, is spending more than $5,000 more in utility costs than it would have in the old building.
Finally, even with the savings from Lincoln Heights, it is unclear that the "green" elements have anything to do with the savings. In fact, the most energy efficient elementary school in the district is Browne Elementary, which is 13 percent more efficient than Lincoln Heights. It was built in 2001 but without the "green" building standards.
It could be that there is a behavioral element to higher energy costs. If I'm in a green building I might be more likely to blast the heat or leave the lights on longer. But, it might simply be a bogus claim of energy savings. My perception is that the green building advocates are trying to sell us something.