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Green Infrastructure: Benefits to Commercial Landowners

Green infrastructure has been proven to help manage urban stormwater problems and improve the health and livability of cities and towns. Research is now finding that techniques like green roofs, tree planting, permeable pavement and rain gardens also offer economic benefits to commercial property owners and tenants.

Authors of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC’s) report The Green Edge studied retail centers, office buildings, and apartment buildings and found that green infrastructure resulted in millions of dollars of savings and/or additional revenue over a 40-year planning horizon. The retail center, in particular, garnered an additional $23 million in revenue just from increased sales by tenant businesses.

Green infrastructure strategies vary in number, complexity, effectiveness, and economic benefit. The Green Edge researched several strategies: landscaping and tree cover; green roofs; eco-labels or certifications; permeable pavement; and rain gardens, vegetated swales and cisterns. Savings are also available through stormwater fee credits, lower water and energy bills, and reduced maintenance costs.

Overall Benefits of Green Infrastructure

  • Increased rents and property values
  • Increased retail sales
  • Energy savings
  • Stormwater fee credits and other financial incentives
  • Reduced infrastructure costs
  • Reduced costs associated with flooding
  • Reduced water bills
  • Increased mental health and worker productivity for office employees
  • Reduced crime.

Increased Income

Landscaping, tree planting and mature tree cover lead to increased property value, sales and rental rates. Good landscaping increases office rental rates by 7% and apartment rental rates by 2-5%. Green roofs increase rental rates by as much as 16%. Shoppers spend 8-12% more at centers with mature landscaping. LEED accreditation, a green infrastructure certification, has led to higher occupancy rates in buildings that carry the LEED label.


Green roofs and tree planting greatly reduce the need for heating and air conditioning, leading to substantial savings on energy bills.

Cash Back

In many cities, green infrastructure program costs can be recouped in several ways. Specific programs vary by municipality, but typical sources include stormwater fee credits, tax credits, development incentives and rebates. Over a 40-year analysis, gains were in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per building.

Reduced Costs

Green roofs prove to be one of the most effective ways to reduce maintenance costs in the medium- and long-term. Conventional roofs last about 20 years, while green roofs last at least 40 years. Permeable paving also provides significant maintenance savings. Although installing permeable pavement has a higher initial cost, much lower maintenance costs mean savings starting approximately 15 years after installation and can total in the millions over a 40-year planning horizon.

Other Benefits

Green infrastructure promises many other benefits that are difficult to quantify on the level of individual property. These include better stormwater management that leads to reduced flooding and rainwater capture that lowers water bills. Several studies have shown that green space reduces crime, and that people prefer working in buildings with green spaces nearby.

Stormwater fee and tax credit incentives help to pay for green infrastructure improvements to a property. The Green Edge helps to show how other measurable benefits such as increased rental rates and decreased maintenance costs actually turn green infrastructure into a long-term profitable endeavor.

Source: The Green Edge, NRDC, December 2013


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  1. Toni Pogue

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