LEED Certification and Sustainability

Sustainable building design is an investment.  While it is true that the initial cost of a green design building is slightly higher, the long term operation of the building tends to be lower, as well as the life cycle impact on the environment.  All projects - church archiecture or commercial architecture - should be reviewed by the designer or Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) team.  Within the team, the improved communication, collaboration, design process and materials control enables a more efficient approch to green design. It is up to the project team to ascertain what level of sustainable design that should be incorporated into the project.  Most public funded projects have to attain a certain level of USGBC LEED Certification.  Usually, silver.  The green project is normally not however registered with USGBC LEED.  In all cases, sustainable practices should be incorporated into the project if there is no or a negligible up charge for Green materials and processes.

To Certify or Not to Certify

USGBC LEED Certification (US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), along with the other green certifications we've discussed before, are frequently optional, not mandatory. Therefore, the design team has a great deal of discretion over which certifications are worth obtaining. Of course, the wishes of the owner, funding, and other factors are in play also. LEED certification and project registration will have higher fees to track and document the green building.  Our experience has been that LEED Certified is attainable by meeting Washington or California State energy and water quality codes.  Silver is attainable for a nominal project increase of 1% to 2%, and USGBC LEED Gold Certification comes in around 8% higher than a non-LEED building.  Although Rhodes has not been involved in a USGBC LEED Platinum Certification, it has been reported that they should be delivered for under 10% more than a non-LEED building.  The Owner will need to weigh the additional initial cost against life cycle cost, market parameters and other project goals.  Many owners choose a USGBC LEED Certification level without the addional work of registering the project with the US Green Building Council.

Sustainable building consists of much more than just a LEED checklist. The whole process is highly complicated, requiring LEED professionals to help designers reach LEED standards. 
Rhodes Architecture promotes whole building sustainable design.  We recognize however, that cost is one of the primary factors we consider when green building is a part of the outcome objectives. We incorporate sustainable practices whenever there is no or only negligible up-charges for green materials and processes as part of our base fee. Additional fee is only charged for projects seeking USGBC LEED registration.  The choice is ultimately up to the owner, but we are available for initial consultation prior to commencement of design.

The USGBC LEED Certification Process

LEED is an internationally accepted certification for the design, construction, and operation of what the US Green Building Council calls "high performance green buildings." (USGBC.org)

"LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance is five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality." (USGBC.org)

Due to differences in building types based on use, USGBC has developed different rules for several different building types in recognition that the will imploy different green building strategies.  Your project may fall under more than one building type.  Rhodes will help you with which certification would be right for your investment.

There are a number of certifications that the USGBC offers for various kinds of building projects:

*LEED for New Construction
*LEED for Core and Shell
*LEED for Schools
*LEED for Retail
*LEED for Commercial and Retail Interiors
*LEED for Existing Buildings and Schools

LEED Professional, version 3 has become extremely complicated and specialized. In LEED version 1, a designer, owner, or contractor could test for LEED AP. Under LEED version 3, USGBC certified professionals have six different categories, each one requiring different training and testing.  While LEED AP O&M would be useful to a building owner, the other AP professional areas may be better provided by consulting designers.  The following US Green Building Council LEED AP professional list should give you some idea just how involved the LEED certification process can be:

*LEED Green Associate
*LEED AP Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
*LEED AP Homes
*LEED AP Building Design & Construction (BD&C)
*LEED AP Interior Design & Construction (ID&C)
*LEED AP Neighborhood Development (ND)

The USGBC LEED AP professional guides the owner and project team through a point-based benchmark system. The process is systematic and objective, but it takes a professional who knows the ins and outs of the certification process to make sure all the bases are covered. The most important part is to pick a design team using a holistic sustainable green building approach.  The process begins early on, when LEED credits are proved or dropped in the design and cost analysis based on the needs of the project. This whole process has to be thoroughly documented at every step for a registered project, so that's certainly a cost to consider here. This is especially the case if the certification is a mandatory part of project for the purposes of funding or subsidies.  In short, the determination on LEED registration will need to be at the beginning of the project.

LEED v3 has a new construction rating system, and is completely outlined in the pdf found  here.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like more information, please contact us today. We can be reached by phone at 206.465.2021, or you can submit to the right and we’ll get right back to you.

Copyright 2010 © Rhodes Architecture