LEED-EB Fees Explained

I've wanted to post about LEED fees for awhile, but my desire to keep my REAL job has kept me from doing so. Nobody likes a colluder anyway (that is a word). Luckily I'm able to live vicariously through the meticulous studies of others... Thanks Leonardo Academy!!!

People Who Know More Than Me

Apparently the Leonardo Academy is a non-profit group that calls themselves a "Think and Do Tank" that I'd previously never heard of. I'm going to chalk this up to poor PR consultants who may or may not have drafted the "Think and Do Tank" tagline. Last week I began to look at costs and fees associated with LEED-EB certification, and it just so happens this same group dropped a killer report on the subject less than a month earlier!

First Thoughts

The study is well put together, and breaks down costs into owner staff costs, consulting costs, USGBC fees, and hard costs. I was struck by how in almost every situation, the owner staff costs were roughly double that of all other soft costs (which include consulting and USGBC fees). Based on fourteen buildings, the median prices per square foot break down as follows:

  • Staff Costs: $0.46/sf
  • Consulting Costs: $0.23/sf
  • Registration and Application Fees: $0.03/sf
  • Hard Costs: $0.44/sf
  • Total Costs: $2.48/sf

Yes, I know those fees don't add up to equal the total costs, and if you need to know why you should learn about the definition of "median". The study goes on to provide mean, minimum, and maximum costs, and further breaks down the numbers based on certification level. It's very important to note that these figures are not for the latest LEED-EB O&M rating system. They are all based on "LEED for Existing Buildings for Individual Buildings" as described by the report. Real Life LEED has been told but can't confirm that the new system was designed to be more user friendly and should reasonably see lower costs for completion. Only time will tell if that holds true.

The report goes on to highlight inexpensive or easy to achieve credits as indicated by owner surveys. Also useful to a consultant will be the comparisons of actual operating costs of LEED-EB buildings to BOMA averages. Slightly more LEED-EB buildings had lower operating costs when compared to industry averages.

Owner Intensive

As one might expect, LEED-EB requires a great degree of owner involvement, especially when compared to the other LEED systems, which could more or less be completed while the owner is on extended vacation in the Bahamas... Obviously it would be preferred to have the owner involved in all LEED systems, but I don't see how you could get by without 'em in LEED-EB.

What's Missing

The most critical information I'd like to see is at least SOME description of the square footages involved. Previous experience in LEED-NC and LEED-CS has me believing that costs for documentation and management are not scalable with building size. Given that LEED-EB is so focused on drafting policies and tracking performance, I have a hard time believing it takes 100 times more effort to draft a integrated pest management policy in a 5,000 sf building than for a 500,000 sf building.

What are you're experiences with the LEED-EB system, new or otherwise??? Please share with everyone in the comments section below!

The Economics of LEED for Existing Buildings For Individual Buildings: 2008 Edition


Anonymous said...

I didn't think the report was either illuminating or well done. The LEED sample size consisted of 14 buildings, none of which were described in any useful way. The construction cost reports were all over the place and it was difficult to draw any true conclusion from the report. I also found some data points, such as building security, to be tangential to LEED or sustainable design.

CoStar's commercial RE report was better, and I suspect that the Jones Lang and CBRE folks have much better data libraries.

joelmckellar said...

I agree the small sample is a serious problem... I'm not familiar with the CoStar report you're referencing... could you provide a link to where I could download/purchase it? Is it specifically focused on EB?