2011 Sustainability Study

Twenty years ago, with the world’s oil reserves rapidly depleting and the rising cost of energy, sustainable construction emerged. The intention was to shift standard practices toward environmentally friendly design and construction. Gaining popularity due to ethical and economic factors, “sustainable construction” and “green building” are now common terms to designers and contractors around the nation.

Though familiar terminology, sustainable design and construction has yet to become standard practice due to complex goals, diversity of approaches, undefined economic returns and even the varying definitions of sustainable construction.

To better understand how sustainable construction is viewed by members of the Architect, Engineer, Contractor, and Owner (AECO) community, Robins & Morton commissioned a survey. Engaging the Coyne Group to administer the survey, Robins & Morton ensured comprehensive and unbiased results. Released in late 2010, the AECO Sustainability Survey requested opinions from over 1,000 members within the community.

Robins & Morton analyzed the survey responses and generated the accompanying graphs and charts to illustrate the AECO community’s response to sustainable construction issues.

About the Survey

Study Legend
Who took the survey?

How many respondents have been involved in green projects?
How many respondents have been involved in green projects?

What types of buildings are represented in the survey?


(results represent the AECO community as a whole)


Study Legend

What priority do you place on the following internal/company outcomes?

What priority do you place on the following design strategies?


In your experience, what is the INITIAL cost savings or premium associated with “green” construction?

In your experience, what is the LIFE CYCLE cost savings or premium associated with “green” construction?

What is your definition of a “reasonable” up-front cost premium, assuming a five-year payback?

What is the acceptable time period over which you would expect to receive 100% ROI?


Robins & Morton’s 2010 AECO Sustainability Survey obtained the opinions and experiences of respondents representing each of the AECO professions and multiple building sectors. The majority of respondents have had previous experience with green construction. Surveying a diverse sample group resulted in varying responses, however the AECO community did agree on the following:

PERCEPTIONS: The majority of the community agrees that sustainable construction is now a consideration in their area of work, is not a fad, and by pursuing sustainable goals they can modify the attitudes and behaviors within their organizations.

PRIORITIES: When asked to qualify the internal priorities of sustainable construction, most professions agreed Social Responsibility was of medium-high concern and Employee Recruitment and Retention was of medium concern. Energy-Use Reduction was determined to be the design priority of highest importance. Temperature Controls was also ranked in the top three design priorities by each profession.

INVESTMENT: The majority of respondents agreed on short-term investment items such as “reasonable” up-front costs (at a 4-6% increase) and “experienced” initial costs (at a 1-5% increase). As for long-term investment responses, 50% or more of each profession agreed that the Life Cycle Cost of green construction will result in a cost savings. The majority of each profession also agreed that between 3-10 years is an acceptable time frame for full Return on Investment.

Robins & Morton would like to thank the members of the AECO community that participated in the sustainable construction survey. The knowledge you shared will help all of us to better understand the motivations of each individual profession. Our ultimate goal is that improved collaboration among the AECO community will result in more attainable sustainable design and construction. We look forward to continuing our valued relationship.