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Does a "Green" Design Equal More Profits?

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Bruce CarterBruce Carter

Being eco-friendly is the practice of making educated choices that result in less damage to the environment while using fewer resources. Going green seems like an obvious focus for any health club owner, especially since the business is all about being healthier. The sustainability movement can be incorporated in various parts of a club, including a club's design.

The formula is simple. Energy savings resulting from better building design (proper insulation, glass and materials), more efficient mechanical systems (proper heating, ventilation, air conditioning and water-saving plumbing fixtures) and lighting efficiency will reduce a club's operating costs. Often, the more efficient design and mechanical systems cost more upfront, but those costs will eventually be recouped through savings in utility costs and operating expenses and through increased sales as a club's eco-friendly image attracts more members.

Still, you'll have to pay for these higher costs upfront, which begs the question: Can the additional costs to become more eco-friendly be passed on to the consumer in higher dues?

Some people are willing to pay more to be a member at a green club, but probably more than half of the marketplace is not willing to pay higher dues for this. If a club owner planning a major renovation surveyed members to see if they preferred that the renovation have a strong emphasis on going green, I think the majority of members would say yes. However, if the club owner asked if members would be willing to pay $4 more per month to pay for such a club, I think you'd see a substantial drop in favorable responses. Generally, people are all for going green, but they expect someone else pay for it, such as the club owner paying for it from the club's profits.

Regardless of how you pay for becoming greener, you must first decide whether to move in this direction with your design. Doing so shouldn't be a quick decision. Facility operators must do some research, compare ways of operating, consider upfront expenses and calculate long-term savings before making this decision. For any choice to be good for a business, it usually comes down to the old adage, "no margin, no mission." Wanting to do good for the planet is a wonderful part of a business mission. However, no matter what the apparent positives are, if a choice does not eventually result in adequate profit margins, then a business will no longer exist and any desire to do good goes down with the ship. Therefore, the cost of going green has to properly relate to profits, directly or indirectly, but should be able to be measured to some degree. That's especially important since the projected savings sometimes do not amount to what was expected, thereby delaying a breakeven point.

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