May 2010

Volume 19, Number 5

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Article Contents

Green Topics

The Cost of LEED Certification

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How much does LEED certification cost in commercial construction? Earning LEED certification involves several types of costs, and you have to consider each separately to get an accurate picture.

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 3¢–5¢ 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.

The construction cost figures given here, and many more, come from “The Cost of LEED”—a new report from BuildingGreen. The report is available for $49 at

Continuing Education

Download the report and take the quiz to receive continuing education credit. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has approved this course for 1 HSW/SD Learning Unit. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has approved the technical and instructional quality of this course for 1 LEED-Specific GBCI CE hour towards the LEED Credential Maintenance Program.

Learning Objectives

Upon completing this course, participants will be able to:

  1. List at least three “cost synergies” for credits in LEED-NC 2009.
  2. List at least two credits or prerequisites in LEED-NC 2009 that can be achieved with no additional cost in a typical commercial building.
  3. Explain the calculations behind the cost premiums for at least three credits in LEED-NC 2009.
  4. List the cost premiums for at least three credits in LEED-NC 2009.

To earn credit, download and read the report, then return here, make sure you are logged into your personal BuildingGreen account, and pass this quiz.

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May 1, 2010