AN INTERNATIONAL CONSTRUCTION consulting firm has released a report challenging the long-held belief that sustainable building costs significantly more than traditional construction.

“When you calculate the statistics for buildings of similar type, there is slight to no difference,” says Peter Morris, a principal in the Sacramento, Calif., office of Davis Langdon & Seah International and one of the study's authors.

Many projects, according to the study, achieve sustainable design within their initial budget or with small supplemental funding, which “suggests that owners are finding ways to incorporate project goals and values, regardless of budget, by making decisions,” the paper states. These decisions, Morris says, result in green buildings that cost about the same.

Though the study analyzes public and institutional buildings, Morris says it can be applied to the residential arena as well. “What we see is that if people are building a custom home, there is no reason a green home should cost more than a traditionally built one,” he explains. The principles are even applicable to quasi-custom tract developments where the single-family units or the townhome units cost more money, and the level of finishes and the price of the homes are higher than a standard tract development home.

It is more of a challenge to apply these conclusions to tract housing, however. Costs are much more important in these projects, and any proposed sustainable product is likely to be value-engineered out of the budget. “Where you see houses being built fast for profit, it's hard for developers to incorporate green building principles into the homes,” Morris explains.

To obtain a copy of the report, “Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budgeting Methodology,” visit