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“Anyone else finding a trend of clients wanting LEED-certifiable projects but not wanting to commit to certification? I have three projects just this week toying with going this route.”

That was the opening salvo in a recent email discussion I was involved in among a group of architects. With the permission of those involved, I’ve anonymously synthesized some of the key takeaways here. I’d also like to hear from you: please post your experiences on LEED certified vs. certifiable projects below.

It’s about the cost, stupid

The following comment summed up some of the objections out there to pursuing LEED: “We are seeing a little green fatigue as well internally and externally; somehow making a project ‘certifiable’ instead of certified seems less onerous and costly.”

Another architect states, “It is important to know what the motivation is behind not pursuing [LEED] certification. Nine times out of ten for my clients it was the cost of certification. I typically respond to them by explaining that the vast majority of the incremental cost is doing the documentation, modeling, etc., which would be necessary to verify goals are being met regardless of LEED. Once the building owners have spent the fee to document performance, perform modeling, etc., the added cost to pay GBCI simply gives them external validation.”

Another architect agrees on where the cost comes from: “In my experience, documentation is not the largest cost of LEED certification; it's meetings and coordination. These costs would likely be incurred for a certifiable project as well.”

While there was consensus in the group about the marginal cost of actual certification, another person noted one of the counterarguments they hear: “Isn't this just good design? Why do we need to pay extra?” Those questions also arise internally, as an architect reports: “I'm also having to convince our teams.  They feel like they don't need it to validate what they are doing.”

The perception of unnecessary spending also came up: “We've seen a client refuse to pursue LEED on their corporate headquarters because they felt it sent the wrong message to their employees. The project would have come out in the high LEED Gold to Platinum range with 30%–35% energy savings, excellent daylighting, aggressive water reduction, good landscaping and stormwater swales, and even a big third-party funded PV system. They were committed to a high-performance building but......."

Read the full post on LEEDuser:

LEED Certified or Certifiable? Architects Make the Case for Earning the Plaque

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