The Cost of LEED v4 Building in Case Study

With the November 1, 2016 deadline approaching when new LEED projects must register under the new LEED version 4, the real estate industry has been uncertain about the first costs and benefits of LEED v4 building.

The uncertainty has been fermenting since the summer of 2102 when the vote on “LEED 2012” (now called LEED v4) was first delayed. And concern has only accelerated since November 2013 when projects have had the option of registering under LEED v2009 or LEED v4 because so few projects have opted for v4. Even today, there are only a very few new buildings actually v4 certified, so there is not much experience with v4 in the environmental industrial complex.

But a new authoritative report allays those concerns and much more, ..

The good folks at BuildingGreen, Inc., who among other valuable resources publish LEEDuser, have just published a report, The Cost of LEED v4. Not only does the report include a case study comparing the cost of LEED v2009 and LEED v4 on an actually constructed building, but it may be most useful in its credit by credit strategy for achieving each credit, which include costs.

But let’s not bury the lead, the case study was a 47,777 sq. ft. build-to-suit, ground up, slab-on-grade, four-story medical office building located in Massachusetts, constructed with union labor in a jurisdiction that mandates LEED certification or equivalent. The project construction cost was about $15,600,000 or $326.50 per sq. ft. The building was actually Gold certified under LEED for New Construction v2009 in 2013, with a total of 67 points. The case study is a riveting read .. admittedly it is not a Tom Clancy thriller, but is technically detailed like his military science storylines. And you will be enthralled by the denouement,

“it would take this LEED v2009 Gold building an additional $9,000 to achieve LEED certification in v4, which is 0.05% of the total original cost. To match its LEED v2009 Gold certification with a LEED v4 Gold plaque, the project would incur an extra cost of $78,400. With the addition of the $9,000 for LEED v4, this amounts to 0.533% of the original total cost.”

And while I have told you how the case study ends, that really is not a spoiler because it is just the climax of a chain of events and you will want to read the narrative as LEED credits are explained, including fascinating synergies among select credits that impact first costs and more.

I had an opportunity to talk with my friend, Tristan Roberts, one of the authors and he was excited about the elegance of the new v4 IPc1 Integrative Process credit and while there are likely soft costs for the new credit including for updated energy model requirements, there are potentially huge project wide saving that can be realized from this process.

Tristan was also high on teams pursuing the new SSc1 Site Assessment credit that carries “no added construction costs” and identifies strategies that lead to the efficacy of a green building project.

And Tristan admitted he “didn’t know much about demand response” before studying the new EAc4 Demand Response credit that for most new construction only results in very nominal costs, if any, for software programming in the building management system, but yields real energy savings.

The report allays our concerns and we now know you can deliver a LEED v4 certified building at minimal additional cost.

For readers of this blog, The Cost of LEED v4 is available for purchase, for a limited time, at a 20% discount. And it may only be a slight overstatement to observe, much as The Hunt for Red October captured the reality of life aboard a nuclear submarine, this report presents a very nuanced tour of a LEED v4 green building project.