Recently we’ve seen a lot of stories announcing new development projects and their sustainability initiatives that claim the building or facility is “built to LEED standards,” but make no mention of whether the developers actually intend to pursue LEED certification. These kinds of statements can be misleading because building to these standards without completing the rigorous third-party verification that LEED provides means developers will not have the documented metrics needed to substantiate their efforts.
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Benchmarking against similar buildings can provide the impetus for continued improvement in building performance. Without third-party reviewers to establish the baseline for sustainability efforts, chances to reduce environmental impact may be missed, and developers may be unknowingly making false claims. LEED has a thorough documentation process that not only assures credibility and transparency, it also allows for building owners to provide substantiated evidence immediately that the building has reached the high sustainability standards required of LEED projects.
Often, the costs to pursue LEED certification are quite minimal compared to the major investments required for a new development project, and building a LEED building does not have to increase the overall budget of a project. Up-front investment in green building makes properties more valuable, with an average expected increase in value of 4%. Owners of green buildings reported that their return on investment improved by 19.2% on average for existing building green projects, and 9.9% on average for new projects.
Studies also show increased project value and faster lease rates for LEED-certified commercial and residential buildings, and a green building certification can act as a competitive differentiator. In the residential sector, a vast majority of builders say that consumers will pay more for green homes. A recent Harris Interactive poll of over 2,000 Americans found that nearly half consider eco-friendly features more important than luxury items in a home. LEED certification is an excellent way to break into this market, and represents an incredible business opportunity to grow market share and stand out from competition.
There are significant benefits to home builders, inspectors and, consequently, homeowners. The LEED for Homes rating system requires two on-site inspections to verify LEED for Homes requirements. The first is before the drywall is installed, and the second is upon completion of construction. This reduces builder call-backs and cuts down on building and inspection time because structural issues that can be covered up with drywall are identified and fixed before the project is complete.
[Related: Seeing green—How small builders stand out with sustainability]
Aside from the benchmarking and marketing benefits of LEED certification, financial and tax incentives at the local level are available to those who have achieved LEED certification, particularly in those municipalities that have committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The rigors of the certification process are also more likely to lead to the successful implementation of a holistic sustainability strategy for the project—and one that is continued through the facility’s lifecycle.
Patti Mason is the mountain west regional director for the U.S. Green Building Council. She can be reached at [email protected].
Patti Mason is the mountain west regional director for the U.S. Green Building Council. She can be reached at [email protected]