We analyze the financial returns to a green building renovation project for a small commercial office building in the urban Midwest. Compared with a comparable conventional renovation, the LEED renovation required additional building costs of approximately $7.41 per square foot. This additional up-front investment, or “green premium,” promises to generate an estimated $1.38 per square foot in annual savings, mostly from reduced energy expenditures. Viewed strictly in financial terms as an investment opportunity, the LEED renovation offered an expected Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of approximately 12%. A sensitivity analysis suggests that this estimate is relatively robust across a range of alternative model assumptions. The findings suggest that LEED renovations could be very attractive to organizations with relatively low capital costs, such as government agencies, but might prove marginal or unattractive to smaller private firms with high costs of capital.

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