Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=100765
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 10:16:35 PM CST
The list of buildings awaiting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is long – and will get even longer as the cost of alternative energy goes down, and the benefits go up.
In an LEED workshop presented Tuesday by the U.S. Green Building Council, Theresa Lehman, part of the USGBC LEED faculty, broke down the credential process to an audience of contractors, architects, engineers and consultants. Lehman said the most common misconception is a lack of understanding about the fundamentals.
“People don’t realize they’re already doing a lot of what LEED is,” Lehman said. “It’s doable; it’s reasonable.”
The payback term is short, she said, especially in light of the renewal of federal tax credits for another eight years. State and local incentives are decreasing the cost of equipment like solar panels and increasing property values.
The LEED Green Building Rating System awards four levels of compliance: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. According to the USGBC Web site, on average, the certification process costs approximately $2,000. Currently there are 1,519 commercial buildings and 13,597 homes registered nationwide and awaiting certification. There are a total of 1,819 certified commercial buildings and 1,039 homes.
“I have noticed a huge increase in the number of people seeking LEED certification in the last year,” Lehman said. “People are becoming more educated.”
Chicago real estate consultant, Sherrie Saratore said she attended the workshop to help her become a LEED accredited professional. Saratore said she was most apprehensive about the “LEED cost implications,” but the figures for the return on investments reassured her.
However, changes to the 2009 rating system for the Green Building Rating System could introduce more competitive standards if passed by USGBC members later this week.
The proposed alterations include greater minimum energy performance requirements, additional incentives for select design features and prerequisites to existing conditions.
Tighter regulations mean projects currently on the fence should register as soon as possible for LEED certification. The changes could go into effect as early as next month, Lehman said.
In the long run, or in the “life cycle cost analysis,” as Lehman said, credited clients will find reductions in the energy, water and material resources used by their building, as well as a reduction in the output of greenhouse gases.
Initial construction costs, for example, can be 54 percent of total first costs according to USGBC data. However, when considered in relation to life cycle costs, construction is 15 percent of the total costs.
Profit-wise, utility costs for energy and water are reduced with maintenance costs, because alternative energy systems like solar panels are self-regulating. This in turn has a positive impact on productivity in the workplace, Lehman said.
LEED currently has its credit system based on six categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design.
The Exelon Corp. headquarters in Chicago was awarded a Platinum LEED certification on Apr. 13, 2007, scoring 44 out of a possible 57 credits. The company initially projected it would realize its return on investment target in less than five years, according to Exelon Director of Real Estate Services Deb Kuo.
"We've seen our energy savings higher than what we had modeled out than what we had during the design process," she said
But she added, "Based on energy savings alone, it will be less than three years."