For both building types, baseline construction costs were developed to reflect federal design requirements. An analysis was performed to identify the incremental costs associated with green building measures that would likely be implemented to meet the specific LEED prerequisite and credit requirements.

Individual LEED credit assessments and cost estimates were completed for six scenarios to create a cost range for LEED-Certified, -Silver, and -Gold certification levels. The study indicated that there was an inherent degree of variability to LEED construction cost impacts, based on the following findings:

  • There was no correlation between the point value of a LEED credit and its cost.
  • A range of different strategies can often be used to earn the same individual LEED credit.
  • The cost of some credits varied significantly based on the building type and building program.
  • Some credit costs varied based on region-specific or project-specific issues.

The authors concluded that many Silver-certified projects could be built at a cost that was within 4 percent of the cost for a similar non-LEED-certified courthouse or office building, as well as occasional LEED-Gold-certified projects (p. 8).

LEED Cost Evaluation Study

Indian Health Service. Department of Health and Human Services. 2006.

The U.S. Indian Health Service (HIS) conducted this study to evaluate the potential cost impacts of achieving LEED-NC and LEED-NC-Silver certification on its facilities, which are primarily hospitals and other healthcare-related buildings. They evaluated both initial capital cost investments and life-cycle costs (using a 20-year life). The purpose was to develop realistic cost factors for the implementation of LEED certification in the IHS budget estimating system so that projects could be adequately funded up-front for this purpose. For the study, LEED credits were evaluated against standard practices of the Indian Health Service as outlined in the agency’s design guide.

Among the study findings were the following:

  • Initial capital construction costs (design and construction) would require a 1 to 3 percent increase in the budget to meet the Certification level, and a 3.5 to 7.6 percent increase in the budget to meet LEED-Silver certification.
  • Energy savings over 20 years of operation have the potential to significantly mitigate the initial capital cost impacts. “Given the potential margin of error inherent in these types of calculations, and the uncertainty of future energy prices, life-cycle cost savings may completely offset or even exceed initial capital costs” (p. ES-3).

The authors of the study made the following recommendation:

It is advisable for IHS to adopt LEED certification in pursuit of sustainable design and adjust project budgets accordingly. Doing so provides a measurable benchmark for determining success. LEED is widely known, has significant credibility within the private and public sectors, provides third-party validation and provides recognition for the agency, affiliated tribes, and communities. Flexibility in the LEED process facilitates multiple avenues for achieving a basic certification under disparate circumstances, site conditions, and geographic locations…. a 3.0% increase to the project budget is appropriate to pursue a basic [Certified level] certification (p. ES-3).

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