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Green Building Means Business Part 1 -To LEED Or Not To LEED

There’s a shakeup happening in the way we look at value in the construction industry. With the recent demand and inevitable legislation for sustainable building practices developers, owners, and tenants are asking themselves what’s in it for me? Of course it’s absolutely amazing that green building codes and standards like LEED are in place to protect ecological surroundings and offer enormous health and social benefits to occupants; but construction and development are still industries driven by profit and economic expansion and just because “it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t mean that everyone will do it. So what’s missing in the green building sales pitch? Dollar value. Can I make or save money off green buildings? Well the answer is yes, but it’s not as obvious as it should be. Which is why we’ve dug deep into our armory of expert resources and provided this outline to satisfy your bottom line focus.

Green Building Defined

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Increased Value Of Green Buildings. Image via Show Me.

To explain how green buildings increase valuation and save money we need to first understand the true definition of green building (“building” here being the verb, not the noun). Green building is an all-encompassing process starting at site selection, designing the building and all its component, sourcing materials, constructing and management, building operation and maintenance, and finally its eventual demolition all with energy-efficient and environmentally responsible steps along every inch of the way. It’s not as easy as the end product having a rooftop garden, a graywall, and solar-powered energy. It’s also about where did you get the construction materials from, how did you dispose of site waste, and many other variables that must be monitored. But we’ll save all that for a different time because right now we want to know if my end product is worth more.

LEED Vs. LEED Equivalency

To LEED or not to LEED, that is the question. LEED is the leader (pardon the written pun) in providing a standard for which to adhere to in green building. LEED is certified by the USGBC who have done an amazing job at providing additional benefits to dawning their certification (I will get into these in part two). But having your building LEED accredited is an investment. Therefore, it is common for buildings to follow many or even all LEED’s building standards but not pay to have the USGBC approve all the necessary paperwork and submissions in order to attain the certification. In doing so you can call your building “green” but you cannot call it “LEED equivalent” because LEED is trademarked. Additionally, some suggest that it is worth it to have the USGBC inspect and document all of your construction phases because if you’re serious about green building then you will want to ensure that every angle has been thought of in order to ensure greater value long-term. For example without the USGBC to inspect you might unknowingly install toilets that consume too much water, or you might not consider the amount of green space that would provide additional value.

What Do Buyers and Occupants Want?

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Green buildings stand out. Image via Construction Law Signal.

From a buyer or a tenant’s perspective and because LEED has also become a marketing-machine people are willing to pay more for a LEED building than a building certified by a different standard. As with any product or service, you need to decide which buyers you want to attract and then build according to their demands. It’s actually quite a contentious issue and might just boil down to a matter of opinion. This writer is by no means and expert on the comparables between LEED and LEED equivalency and I encourage anyone wanting to pursue to green building to check out the other certifications and make an educated decision based on the understanding that green building is a full-circle process.

Green Building Appraisal Techniques

It also might not hurt to mention that what I have discovered in my research is that standard building appraisal techniques are not exactly modern and may not be considering the full-scope value of a LEED or green buildings. So my two cents is to speak to someone in the appraisal industry about how they valuate certain “green” components before you dig a hole. In part two of the Green Building Means Business article series, I will outline how green buildings increase their own value. This is done in several ways and can be more effective in some markets over others. Feature Image: Green building high-rise. Image via Flickr user Thsntht.

About The Author

Emily Rodgers
Emily is Editor and Co-Founder of PowerHouse Growers. Having found a passion for sustainability, she seeks to be on the cutting edge of ecological urban design. Emily's mission is to help others see the value in social and environmental responsibility so they may live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. By delivering relevant, useful, and educational news and articles that inspire action, Emily believes that all individuals, businesses, and city officials can do their part to collaboratively create sustainable communities.