Get The Cost of LEED v4 for $99.95 $79.95 (with your LEEDuser member discount)

Continuing Education:

5 AIA HSW Learning Units
5 GBCI LEED-specific CE hours

How much will it cost to achieve LEED v4 certification?

“We’d love a green building, but can we afford it?”

“We’re required to be LEED Silver, but we’re not sure how to get there under the new rating system.”

“Sure, we’re interested in LEED, as long as it doesn’t cost extra.”

LEED v4 and cost uncertainty

With LEED v4, the U.S. Green Building Council did a “reboot” of the LEED rating system. Every credit category is filled with reinvented or completely new credits and prerequisites. The new LEED emphasizes an integrated process over checking easy credit boxes.

Even though LEED v4 represents a step forward in how we think about green buildings—something we should applaud—the market has been slow to embrace it, especially with the more familiar LEED 2009 system still fully available through most of 2016.

Why the hesitancy? There are some uncertainties in LEED v4 about how to earn credits (the Materials & Resources credits have a lot of people flustered) but the requirements aren’t that complicated. The main drag on LEED v4 adoption is cost uncertainty. (The higher bar for energy points is also a drag, but that’s more or less a cost issue as well.)

Project teams haven’t yet gotten familiar with what strategies they’ll need to earn credits, and what those will cost. And once you’ve picked strategies… what certification level will you achieve?

We’ve heard anecdotally that projects can expect to see the same project bumped down a level—from Gold to Silver, or Silver to Certified—under LEED v4. Is that true? And what will it cost to bump the project back up?

A team of experts specifies exact LEED v4 costs

In response to these questions, BuildingGreen, publisher of LEEDuser, assembled a team of professionals with hundreds of certified LEED projects between them. We gathered architects, engineers, cost estimators, and LEED experts to not only analyze the sustainable design strategies associated with each LEED credit, but also to assign actual costs to those strategies.

Our new report, The Cost of LEED v4, is structured to enable project teams to systematically address the complexity of evaluating sustainable design strategies on a LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) project.

In the report you’ll learn:

  • Likely “soft” costs for the new Integrative Process credit and for updated energy model requirements, including consultant fees for specialized energy studies or microclimate analysis
  • Which credits are likely to produce cost savings—if considered early enough in design
  • Whether there’s a “LEED premium” at all: with codes getting more strict, we explain which strategies are standard practice
  • With our cost synergies table with each credit, look for credits to bundle together to boost your LEED score and spread cost premiums across as many credits as possible
  • Where advances in products and materials—and market demand—are keeping premiums to a minimum, even as LEED gets stricter
  • What makes sense for your project? For example, we don’t just break down the new water metering credit into possible systems you might monitor. We also give you frank advice on when and where to employ each strategy.
  • How the new building product disclosure and optimization credits in LEED v4 are likely to affect your costs: probably not through cost premiums on specific products (an area that we therefore excluded from the scope of the report), but through constrained selection.
  • In credits with multiple pathways (like daylighting), find out which paths can cost less—and whether this will hurt you on the LEED scorecard

With the big credits—energy and water efficiency—we go even further. Our report shows the costs of dozens of strategies, and it also shows the energy and water savings you’ll get from those strategies. You can start to assemble a picture of what strategies you might need to pursue to hit your benchmarks, and get an idea of what you’ll spend.

Case study shows the cost of LEED v4 Gold

The Cost of LEED v4 is a tool: you can apply it to identify strategies and likely costs on your project.

It’s not a statistical look at overall cost premiums for LEED v4 certified projects. With few LEED v4 projects out there, that data just doesn’t exist yet.

But after our Cost of LEED 2009 report came out, our readers told us that you wanted an overview that tied it all together. So for this report we included a 13-page case study of unprecedented detail and cost disclosure.

For our case study we started with a project that originally achieved Gold certification in LEED v2009, and then did a virtual upgrade.

The project is a 48,000-ft2 medical office building in Boston. In the case study we detail what strategies are used on the project and how it earned LEED 2009, and for what cost (absolute, and per ft2).

We then evaluate which LEED v4 prerequisites and credits would already be achieved for the same project. We found that without extra effort the LEED certification level would drop under LEED v4 from Gold to Silver! We then we looked at what credits could feasibly be added to earn Gold under LEED v4, and at what cost.

All of these findings are presented in a detailed narrative with an annotated LEED scorecard.

Project-specific considerations

Every LEED project is different, and your actual costs may vary from our estimates. That’s why each credit starts with typical baseline costs for conventional design and construction strategies, so you can see how these compare to what you might be familiar with on your projects. (Our team is based in the Northeast U.S.)

Then we provide a line-item breakdown of cost premiums for sustainable strategies, either in dollar figures or percentage premiums.

A number of credits will have very project-specific costs—for example, Rainwater Management. Even in this case we break down likely strategies you might use (including paving strategies, and water reuse), and estimate costs. In cases where costs will vary too much to provide a reliable estimate (as with stormwater detention ponds), we make a note of that.

An independent view of LEED v4

The report does not advocate for specific products or technologies. As with all of BuildingGreen’s publications, you can count on our editors to provide independent, unbiased advice.

This report is written by and for LEED and green professionals—not USGBC insiders. And while the authors have loads of LEED experience and know the benefits of LEED, they also know its limits and are quick to point out the realities of documentation costs and difficult credit hurdles. BuildingGreen and LEEDuser are independent from USGBC.

The visually attractive 103-page PDF can easily be used to demonstrate smart LEED strategies to principals and clients alike.

Continuing education

Need Continuing Education hours? This course has been approved by GBCI for 5 LEED-specific CE hours and by AIA for 5 HSW Learning Units.

Get The Cost of LEED v4 for $99.95 $79.95 (with your LEEDuser member discount)

The BuildingGreen Guarantee: If for any reason you are dissatisfied with The Cost of LEED v4, you may request a full refund — no questions asked.

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