What It Means to Be a LEED Certified Building

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a “LEED Certified” building? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design and is used to identify and recognize buildings which follow a strict set of environmentally sound regulations. A LEED Certification is determined by the USGBC, or U.S. Green Building Council. Most types of residential or commercial buildings nationwide can qualify.

The Federal government is leading by example by requiring new government buildings under the General Services Administration and several departments of the U.S. Military to be built in compliance with LEED standards. The adoption has brought some conflict since building costs rise on average between 4.5-11 percent, depending on the type of structure, when adhering to the stricter environmental standards. In some cases, the increased cost pays off in a few years by way of decreases in electricity and gas bills. States and local governments are starting to follow the lead. The state of Maryland is the first to take the leap to green building throughout the state by requiring that all new construction 7,500 square feet or larger meet LEED Certification standards. Some smaller local governments, such as Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose and others are enforcing the same law as Maryland.

Some new construction projects aren’t waiting to be forced by law to adhere to LEED standards. Buildings nationwide are “going green” so to speak to take advantage of potential future energy cost savings. those companies also have a distinct marketing advantage with the ability to advertise their environmentally friendly building through the use of the LEED logo.

To help offset the cost increase, some local governments provide incentives to build green. Portland, Oregon gives building owners a tax credit for LEED application fees and additional design and construction costs. The Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland attained LEED’s gold certification. The aggregate soft cost estimate was $322,000, about 3.2 percent of construction costs. The Courtyard Portland City Center hotel obtained LEED Gold Certification at a soft and hard cost estimate of only a 1.2 percent premium. The hotel is expected to save over $675,000 over the next 10 years.

Business owners stated that documentation made up the largest burden of obtaining and applying for LEED Certification. Depending on the project size, documentation costs alone were estimated at.7 percent of the overall project, or between $8000 and $70,000.

LEED Certified building is taking hold in a small portion of the private sector, but has been far more popular in the public sector. Over 19% of government and public new construction have submitted applications for the new environmental standard.