Answers from LEED Fellows on making the business case for LEED | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
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Posted in Education

View both Live with LEED Fellows webcasts, and sign up for the August 21 episode.

USGBC's Live with LEED Fellows webcast series continued in July with a discussion of how to make the business case for LEED. If you missed the live webcast, you can now view a recording of the event, along with bonus resources.

View the webcast.

Once again, we received more questions that we could cover in 30 minutes. As a bonus, our lineup of LEED Fellows answered a few more questions that were submitted during the webcast.

Questions for LEED Fellows

"When you are asked the cost for LEED, how do you respond?"

  • Christopher Schaffner: There are three sets of costs associated with LEED. First are the certification fees—what you pay to USGBC/GBCI. You can go look those up, based on project size. Second are the soft costs—the extra fees you might pay to the project team. These depend on what you think of as the normal scope of services.

    If you are not already doing third-party commissioning, energy modeling and integrated design, it may seem like you need to do a lot extra in the design and construction process. But for many teams, these are now standard practice, and not an extra cost. Still, most projects are going to see a small bump in total design fees when a project goes through the LEED certification process.

    When most people ask about the cost of LEED, they are thinking of the added construction costs. But here’s where a LEED project doesn’t have to cost more. Some specific technologies might add costs, but there are many opportunities where integrated design can actually reduce first costs. If I’m pressed, I’ll tell my clients that LEED will add 0 to 2 percent additional construction costs, but most of my projects achieve LEED certification on a conventional budget.

"How do you show the investment return to your clients?"

  • Cesar Ulises Trevino: In many ways, at all project stages: collaborative (eco)design improvement, better construction practice, more dependable operations. Success case studies and stories with clear facts and figures are most valuable when illustrating the benefits of LEED, especially the rising health and productivity ones.

"How do you get the first one to agree to a LEED project? Who should be convinced, the owner or the entire design and operations teams—or both?"

  • Cesar Ulises Trevino: It's essential to have all the project team on board, but no less crucial is to account for a well informed and committed client. Dedicate as much effort as needed to prepare your LEED playbook, agree on roles and responsibilities and align expectations. As the LEED expert in a project, your knowledge, input and enthusiasm are fundamental.

"What is the main economic benefit to developing a LEED project, or what do you think could be the way to convince an owner to develop a LEED project?"

  • Cesar Ulises Trevino: No single economic benefit will do for all types of projects/owners. Develop the larger and overarching (business) case for the project's life cycle. Include and monetize all applicable intangibles (enhanced productivity, emerging regulatory compliance, technical optimization) that will add up to the hard better-known and accepted benefits (i.e., resource savings).

Building the right project team

Our next Live with LEED Fellows session will focus on building the right project team. The live webcast will be on Tues., August 21 at 2 p.m. ET. Earn 0.5 CE hours and hear from our next lineup of LEED Fellows: Kristen Callori, Steven Guttmann, and Matt Grace.

Register for the August 21 webcast