Paying (and paying) for the LEED Label

As mentioned in past blogs, the burdensome cost of LEED certification–measured in both time and money–lies in  consultant fees and documentation.  A very reliable study commissioned by the US General Services Administration (GSA) proves the point.

The GSA is an independent federal agency responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of federal facilities, including courthouses, office buildings, land ports of entry, and research facilities.

GSA commissioned this report to identify the incremental cost of LEED certification for two buildings: A new mid-rise federal Courthouse and a mid-rise federal office building modernization. The report analyzed both the incremental construction costs as well as soft costs–i.e. LEED-based documentation and consultation fees.

The incremental cost was calculated from a baseline construction cost for building to GSA’s  stringent guidelines. These guidelines required commissioning on all their buildings, higher energy efficiency than the code requirements, energy efficient underfloor air delivery systems and use of a large proportion of recycled materials in construction.

Given all these existing sustainable practices, the study showed that the additional consultation and documentation cost to be LEED certified was $112,412 for LEED Certified status up to high of $190,052 for LEED Gold status for the Courthouse Building. Similarly, the soft costs for the Office Modernization project was $106,716 for certified and $177, 328 for Gold.

Also according to the report, the soft costs as a percentage of the total construction costs will be significantly higher for buildings of smaller sizes than the buildings (260,000 to 300,000 square feet) in the study.

I wonder how much greener these buildings would have been if taxpayer dollars were invested in performance improvements rather than on consultant and documentation fees.