John Stivers – Tough Questions (2009.10.03)

Owner & Operator of J.H. Stivers Project Services LLC
View more information about John Stivers.

Video Transcript:

As a green building consultant, there’s one big question that I don’t think we’re even coming close to answering.  It’s a moral question as well as a technical question, and I coined the term, carbon capital to address it.

So we’ve talked about carbon footprint and what the operational aspects of it are when we consume electricity or burn fuel, but one of the things that we’ve yet to come to grips with is the amount of impounded energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions that it takes to actually build our buildings.  Now, a building on a square foot basis, which is a unit cost, will use about, oh, maybe $4.00 per square foot, per year, to turn the lights on, to provide air conditioning, to heat it in the winter time and so forth.  That same building, if you were building it new, costs about $200.00 a square foot—a class A office building, for example.  And that office, that first time construction cost, is easily split in half.  So half of it goes to labor, the other half goes to material.  So now we’re down to $100.00 a square foot for the materials.  But when you look and delve into cement, steel, aluminum around the windows and the glass in the windows, the carpet on the floor, converting those raw materials that become drywall, all of those things consume a huge amount of energy.  So if we go from $200.00 to $100.00 for material, and about half of that is actually those petroleum based operations to raise the heat high enough that we can make those conversions.  So we’re spending about $50.00 per square foot, versus that $4.00 on an ongoing basis, and that impounded energy produces global warning and greenhouse gases.  So we’re not really looking at that.  And if we cut our energy use in a building in half and got it down to $2.00, and divided it into that $50.00, it would still be 25 years before we get a return on investment that would justify building that building to begin with, if there was another one that we could potentially use.

Topics: Tough Questions — October 3rd by John Stivers


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