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LEED building not necessarily more costly

One architect says there doesn’t have to be any excessive costs associated with building green friendly

Though they are thought to be more attractive from an environmental and health perspective, LEED-certified buildings are assumed by some to be substantially more costly than those with conventional design.

At least one Mississippi architect and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) AP (accredited professional) disagrees with the commonly held assessment that “going green” means paying more.

“LEED-certified buildings don’t necessarily have to have excessive costs,” Sara Hill of the Hattiesburg-based architectural firm Landry and Lewis said.  “Of course, if someone wishes to aim for a ‘platinum’ rating (highest), then yes.  But there aren’t really any extra or excessive costs associated with just attaining a ‘certified’ rating.

“Long term, it’s definitely worth the investment, however.”

But the perception that green buildings are more expensive to construct is real, said Greg Kats, a Washington, D.C., consultant for the clean energy industry. The majority of this cost is due to the increased architectural and engineering design time, modeling costs and time necessary to integrate sustainable building practices into projects.

“This has been the single largest obstacle to the more widespread adoption of green design,” he said. “Green buildings provide financial benefits that conventional buildings do not — those include lower energy costs, and health and productivity benefits.”

On average, he said, LEED-certified buildings use 30 percent less energy than conventional buildings, a savings of more than $60,000 annually for a building with 100,000 square feet.

      This year in Mississippi, there are 89 LEED projects totaling 16 million square feet, according to Perry Richardson, LEED AP with Canizaro Cawthon Davis in Jackson.

“At the same price per square foot as last year, about $200, the total price for those projects is little over $3.2 billion,” he said. “Amazing.”

Evaluating the exact financial impact of healthier and greener buildings is difficult.  

“The costs of poor environmental and air quality — including higher absenteeism and increased respiratory ailments, allergies and asthma — are hard to measure,” said Kats. “They’ve generally been “hidden” in sick days, lower productivity, unemployment insurance and medical costs.”

Patrik Lazzari, director of sustainable services for Yates Construction, says LEED-certified does not necessarily have to mean more expensive. Variables such as how early the sustainability aspect is introduced to the design/construction, how familiar is the project team with sustainability and what type of building it is all play a role in costs.

“One aspect that is not talked a lot about is the long-term performance of the building and the benefits realized with a green building,” said Lazzari.  “From a life-cycle perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  How quick the payback  is up to the design team.”





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