LEED certification: Worth it?
LEED certification has faced a bit of a backlash recently with legendary American architect Frank Gehry apparently slamming energy-saving green architecture and sustainable design as merely "a political issue" whilst saying that the LEED certification is often given for "bogus stuff". So is a LEED certification worth it?
On top of that, buildings that have the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, a honour that projects an image of environmental responsibility whilst attracting tenants, tax credits and allowing the landlord to charge premium rents, may not save as much energy as their designs claim.
As such, BuildingGreen.com have put together a graph that takes a look at how much it actually costs to construct a LEED-certified building. Are they as 'bogus' as Gehry claims? Is it all a big political con? Or does the certification actually motivate architects to construct sustainable, green buildings?
The cost of LEED Certification
According to BuildingGreen.com's report, achieving the LEED certification involves several types of costs, and you have to consider each separately to get an accurate picture.
In their words;
Let's envision the cost of LEED as an inverted pyramid with four levels from bottom to top. The bottom level is both the smallest (in size and cost) and the top level is potentially the biggest but also a place where you have a lot of leeway.
We'll start at the bottom.
1. The fees. Registration and certification fees are roughly three cents - five cents per square foot, depending on the size of the project and other factors.
2. Cost of documentation time and effort. This cost could be for an outside consultant hired just for that task, someone on the staff of the design firm, the contractor, or the owner. This is a big project for someone doing it for the first time and not such a big deal for someone who has done it enough to have figured out the process.
3. Cost of extra research, design, commissioning, and modeling for compliance. If your baseline is the cost to have a design team create a variant on their last few non-LEED projects, then designing to meet LEED standards will take some extra effort. But these added costs shouldn't be attributed just to LEED-they are the costs of getting a better building.
LEED introduces a few requirements that add costs if they are not already part of the scope of the project. At $0.50-$1 per square foot, commissioning, for example, may seem like a big investment, but it's cheap compared to the cost of call-backs, fixes, and inefficiencies that are likely if you don't do it.
If energy models aren't code-required, then the LEED-specific model represents an added cost that starts at $5,000-$10,000 and goes up, depending on the complexity of the project.
4. Costs of construction. Including green measures can mean added construction costs such as the following: • demand-controlled ventilation adds about $1/cfm to the cost of a standard ventilation system; • bike racks will cost about $5 per full-time equivalent (FTE) occupant; • occupancy sensors cost about $25 per fixture. Good cost estimates enable you to choose among measures with no added cost and those with cost premiums, to maximize return on investment and LEED scores.
So it can definitely drive up costs? But are the energy savings in the long run worth it? and more importantly, is that a strong enough reason to invest?
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