Does it really cost more to build or remodel using green building products and construction techniques? If the star of the Oscar Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire could have answered that question playing India’s version of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show, I’m sure he would have doubled his money.

EcoHome recently asked both green and non-green pros about the costs of building green in a national economic survey that was published last week, and what really surprised me was the range of opinions about the costs (both perceived and actual).

On average, the 451 green and non-green pros responding to the survey said that building green adds 10% to 19% to the cost of a project. As I suspected, more non-green pros reported that they believe building sustainably costs much more than the green pros contended. A greater number of non-green pros versus green pros perceived costs to be 20% to 30% higher, while a greater number of green pros versus non-green pros reported the costs to be 5% to 9% higher.

More surprising to me, however, was the range of opinions. Nearly 5% of both the green and non-green respondents said there is no difference in the costs of traditional and green building, while nearly equal numbers of green and non-green pros said eco-friendly construction comes with a 30% premium.

The numbers clearly show there is no consensus on the costs of building and remodeling green–and I think that’s one of the main reasons why more pros aren’t employing eco-friendly construction practices or installing green products. But it also is clear, based on this survey and my conversations with green builders, that many non-green pros perceive the costs are much higher than they really are. 

In a story written by Katy Tomasulo this week for EcoHome’s Web site, the management at La Posada, a retirement community in Arizona, said building greener, healthier homes doesn’t cost much more. “We’re finding that the myth that building green is a major expense doesn’t hold water,” La Posada’s director of marketing Tim Carmichael said, noting that the NAHB’s estimate of a 3% to 5% increase in cost is accurate in this community’s case. Carmichael said that energy-efficient upgrades to the existing community already are saving thousands of dollars a month and that the older residents will benefit from the healthier living environment.

I think Carmichael’s point about the long-term savings and health benefits is critical to the widespread acceptance of green building. Pros should not focus on the upfront expenses but on the end result--a more comfortable dwelling that over time saves natural resources and slashes utility costs. The costs of green building--perceived or real--may vary widely, but the great number of benefits doesn’t.

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Jean Dimeo is Chief Editor, Online for EcoHome.