Cost of Green Revisited: Reexamining the Feasibility and Cost Impact of Sustainable Design in Light of Increased Market Adoption

L.F. Matthiessen and P. Morris. Davis Langdon Company, Los Angeles, Calif. 2007.

This study compared the construction costs of 83 buildings seeking LEED 2.1 and 2.2 New Construction certification to 138 non-LEED-seeking buildings. The building types included academic classroom buildings (17 LEED-seeking, 43 non-LEED seeking), laboratories (26/44), libraries (25/32), community centers (9/9), and ambulatory care facilities (9/8). The costs were normalized for time and location. Some of the findings from the study were the following:

  • Many projects are achieving LEED certification within their budgets and in the same cost range as non-LEED projects.
  • Construction costs have risen dramatically but projects are still achieving LEED.
  • While there appears to be a general perception that sustainable design features add to the overall cost of the building, the data do not show a significant difference in the average costs of LEED-seeking and non-LEED-seeking buildings.

The Economics of LEED for Existing Buildings for Individual Buildings

Leonardo Academy, Inc., Madison, Wis. 2008.

The authors presented survey data for 11 to 13 buildings certified under the LEED-EB program. The data were provided by the owners or managers of the buildings for 2006-2007. The white paper focused on the certification, implementation, and process costs for LEED-EB certification and an operating cost comparison.

In terms of the costs to certify, implement, and process LEED-EB certifications, data from 13 buildings were available. The authors found that the average cost for LEED-EB implementation and certification was $1.58 per square foot, while the median was $1.52 per square foot. However, the certification costs varied significantly from building to building, from $0.02 per square foot to $5.01 per square foot (p. 5). The authors note that “the results do not follow expectations of higher costs for higher certification levels, but this may be due to the very small sample size at this time” (p. 7).

In this study, operating costs included cleaning expenses, repair and maintenance expenses, roads/grounds expenses, security expenses, and administrative and utility expenses. Data for 11 buildings, all of which had a significant component of office space, were collected and compared to the operating costs in the Building Owners and Managers Association’s (BOMA’s) Experience Exchange Report. The authors found that “in all categories of operating costs, more than 50% of the LEED-EB buildings have expenses less than the BOMA average for the region. Total expenses per square foot of the LEED-EB buildings are less than the BOMA average for 7 of the 11 buildings” (p. 21).

GSA LEED Cost Study

Steven Winter Associates. 2004.

This study was undertaken to estimate the costs to develop “green” federal buildings using LEED 2.1. The report provides a detailed and structured review of both the capital and soft cost implications of achieving Certified, Silver, and Gold LEED-ratings for the two building types most commonly constructed by the GSA: a five-story courthouse and a mid-rise federal office building.



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