Green Design Feeds Green Wallet

Posted on June 23, 2010


Owners may be interested in sustainable design for different intangible reasons, but no one can deny the way green design affects a company financially.

Kim Shinn, a LEED policy driver and green design guru with TLC Engineering, once presented what the USGBC calls ‘the business case for sustainable design’ using “top line” and “bottom line” benefits for companies. This terminology, which references the income statement of a business, made the best sense to me to describe benefits because sustainability affects an organization financially in two different ways.

Bottom line relates generically to “net income”; these benefits will generate cost savings from spending or operating efficiency. Top line relates generically to “gross sales”; these benefits will generate additional revenue through sales generation. Bottom line growth is immediately felt for its one-to-one correlation to money in the pocket (or less money leaving the pocket). Top line growth is a little less direct as it assists in public relations and notoriety momentum (awareness, advertising, goodwill, etc.) that leads to increased sales.

Sustainability information sources emphasize building owner-operators (healthcare, higher education, government) as the best targets for green design because they will see direct financial gain from the energy cost savings implemented in the design. In addition to the benefits listed below, other tangible advantages may materialize as sustainable design grows in practice. For instance increased daylight, a point of LEED emphasis, has been proven to increase customer sales and speed a patient’s recovery time.

Keep in mind, this list is comprehensive but far from exhaustive.

Top Line Benefits

  • Fund Raising (garnering gifted capital)
  • Marketing and Brand Recognition (commercial selling points)
  • Public Relations (image of company to world)
  • Public Policy (government requirements)
  • Recruitment (attracting quality people)


Bottom Line Benefits

  • Utility savings (cost savings in maintenance and utility bills)
  • Productivity (human resource maximization)
  • Employee Retention Success (keeping quality people)
  • Risk Management (potential lawsuit mitigation)
  • Health Improvements (less sick days)

To maximize results, project owners are highly encouraged to register with the USGBC and pursue LEED accreditation. Even if the final documentation is not submitted, LEED certification maintains critical decision-making and rigor throughout the design and construction process.