LEED is one of the world’s most well-known green building rating systems. But, like any popular system, it has both its supporters as well as its detractors. High-profile architects have sparked debate about the importance and usefulness of LEED, and the issue of keeping LEED buildings green has also been raised. Another frequent issue in the debate is the cost involved in getting a building through the LEED certification process. Seeking to demystify the costs and benefits behind the green building certification, BuildingGreen.com recently produced a report with some of the answers.
Different organizations have looked at the costs of LEED and tried to calculate how much more a green building costs. Building Green’s study does not try to fix a premium percentage (based on the cost of construction), but instead looks at the issue in terms of where the costs arise, and what their relative magnitude is.
Building Green’s list contains four categories of costs related to the LEED process: 1. the fees; 2. cost of documentation time and effort; 3. cost of extra research, design, commissioning, and modeling for compliance; 4. costs of construction.
If having a building commissioned means that its systems are running efficiently and it cuts energy use by 20%, then perhaps it is worth the $0.50-$1.00 per square foot that commissioning services typically cost. And, it should be noted, building commissioning can be carried out for any building, not just one that is being LEED certified.
Construction costs are only one part of the whole cost of owning and operating a building. Operations and maintenance also represent significant costs over the life of a building. Many green building owners find that the investments in energy-efficient equipment, insulation, and other improvements can pay back in reduced building operating cost.
Building Green offers a great set of resources for anyone interested in the field of sustainable building. Full access to all of their resources is an annual subscription, but a number of things are also available to non-subscribers. The complete Building Green report on “The Cost of LEED” can be purchased from BuildingGreen.com.