Construction is not an industry for the risk-averse. It involves a lot more math than most people probably anticipate. Getting a building project LEED certified is one of those expensive risks.
Will the cost of more energy-efficient building materials, stringent processes, and the certification itself be worth the investment in the long run? The idea is that it will save operating costs and provide intangible benefits when it comes to marketing and company prestige, but does it really pencil out?
Many people have heard the acronym but haven’t dug down into the complexities of LEED certification. There’s quite a bit to know and quite a bit to weigh.
Some quick facts:
Where did it come from and what does it stand for?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was developed in the year 2000 as a sustainability tool for design firms and builders.
What’s the point?
The point of LEED is sustainability, waste reduction, and healthier building occupants. There is a lot of energy consumed by residential and commercial buildings - nearly 40% of the country’s energy. Companies that are concerned about their environmental footprint should become attuned to LEED standards - right now, they are the baseline for sustainable buildings that is used across the globe.
There are eight categories, each with a point value assigned to them:
The points earned associated with each of these categories determines the level of LEED certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.
Can my company get LEED-certified?
Yes and no. Companies do not get LEED-certified; buildings do. Individuals get LEED-accredited.
What are the financial benefits?
LEED is the industry standard for environmental certification on a project. Dodge Data and Analytics produced a report on World Green Building trends in 2018 that showed that the greatest benefit builders found from building “green” was lower operating costs. Nearly a third of respondents also noted that a higher point of sale was a factor in their decision to go green. Almost 80% of respondents found that they had made up for the additional costs with energy savings in less than 10 years. In some areas, there are also tax benefits to LEED-certified buildings - it’s worth checking out.
Is it possible to be LEED compliant without getting certified?
Some building projects start out with the intention of becoming LEED-certified but end up not going through with the final certification process. The status is attractive at first, but building up to these standards incurs many unexpected building costs. On a tight budget, this can be difficult to achieve.
Technically, a building can still be marketed up to LEED standards without being LEED-certified. If the intention behind seeking sustainable practices is primarily for marketing, this language could be enough to sway potential tenants, etc. But the accountability factor is pretty significant. Without formally ensuring that green standards have been met, it is difficult to guarantee the project is being carried out that way. What happens in the corporate office does not always match what happens in the field. If the building owner is banking on lower operating costs, it may be worthwhile to go through with the certification as an “insurance policy” of sorts.
For more information, or to take the next step toward an application, visit the USGBC website and read the commercial guide to LEED certification.
How important is this certification for potential tenants?
Environmental sustainability is the way of the future - there are no two ways about it. More and more tenants are looking for this certification, particularly if the building is in areas of the country where the environment is a big focus.
Will LEED costs go up or down in the future?
It’s likely that the overall cost of LEED-certified projects will go down in the future. As sustainability becomes the norm, there should be less of a disparity in building costs. Widespread innovation tends to bring costs down.