Wednesday, November 18, 2009

MythBusting LEED Construction Costs & Benefits

In general, more efficient and innovative products are more expensive, but this extra expense is usually regained in the savings that will be recouped from reduced electricity, gas and water bills as well as maintenance costs. Also this extra cost depends on many factors, including a project’s type, scope, and location; how many credits are pursued; and the experience of the team.

On average, LEED-Certified, -Silver, or -Gold projects can add anywhere from 1-4% to the total construction cost, while a LEED-Platinum building can add anywhere from 4-8% to the construction cost.  Despite this initial additional cost, green buildings yield a number of additional benefits and savings that are highly desirable to long-standing institutions like UIC.

Buildings are designed to meet many requirements, such as aesthetic, accessibility, and fire codes.  More and more buildings are also designed to be green – that is, to reduce their impact on the environment.  Since buildings use 48% of energy in the US, as well as the resources to build them such as wood, metal, brick, concrete, and glass,  green building design aims to reduce our demand for resources before, during and after construction.  The average green buildings saves 30%  in energy, 35-50%  less carbon dioxide emissions, 35-50% in water consumption, and 50-90% savings in waste costs.

Green buildings also increase productivity and human performance.  Students were 15-26% faster in reading and math tests and 7-18% higher in test scores, when compared to conventional buildings.  Office workers were 6-12% faster in processing calls and 10-25% better at memory and mental tests.1 Imagine the benefits to UIC if we boasted a campus that helped our students, faculty and staff learn, work, and perform better simply by the design of its buildings!

How do you know if a building is truly green?  There are several rating systems available that provide third-party verification, such as LEED® and Green Globes.  The University of Illinois has decided to adapt the LEED silver standard for all construction and remodeling projects over $5million and to strive to meet those standards for projects under that amount.

4 comments: said...

The flip side of this, however, is that green construction often relies on technology which requires user training and is subject to failure. As someone who worked in the construction industry for years as a building automation software developer, I can say that very, very few building owners are willing to put the required backend work into their energy efficient systems (commissioning, training, maintenance, etc.).

Robert said...

Sustainable building is a critical moving forward...but LEED certification is overkill in my opinion.

Tom said...

Having been in the Albuquerque Roofing business for over twenty years, and using several variations of "green" products during that time, I can tell you that the upfront costs are often too prohibitive in the end user's eyes, and that economics are the biggest factor keeping green products out of the mainstream. Most people aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Chittenden Builders said...

These projects are wonderful to be a part of on so many different levels. First of all the contractor's contribution towards sustaining our environment. The homeowners are often so gratified by the end result and their own efforts to be environmentally conscious. As well it creates a unique change of pace for many of us in the construction industry. I believe when we begin to see the products become more affordable these projects will become mainstream.