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Advantages of Certifying Your Green Building Project

  
  
  
  

by Becky Johnson, LEED AP

People everywhere are starting to embrace green buildings. People are no longer questioning why it's a good idea to build green. For example, energy and water savings translate into a monetary return in a fairly short amount of time. Green buildings are also healthier environments for their occupants. But once the project is complete, why bother going for the third-party certification? Certification is not going to change the energy and water savings. Certification is not going to improve the air quality any more. If you have a project built to certification standards, why pay the extra money to receive the certification?

The first reason is obvious. ‘Green' has become a buzz word as of late, and with it has come the phenomenon known as ‘green washing.' This happens when claims to being green are unfounded and many times untrue, and usually done strictly for profit. Certification provides third-party verification. Essentially, it's a way to prove that a green building is authentically green, and thus suppress any room for doubt. LEED certification is a nationally recognized benchmark for green buildings and therefore highly regarded. Once achieved, LEED certification designation can be used in many ways for marketing and promoting the project.

Other advantages of certification include mortgage and insurance companies who are beginning to recognize the green associated with being green. Fireman's Fund Insurance Company offers Green Building Coverage as well as discounted pricing for certified buildings. Energy Efficient Mortgages (or EEM's) can be used when financing a green project. Because green buildings can save so much money, the lenders realize that you have a higher income ratio, therefore easing qualification terms.

Several studies have been conducted regarding LEED certified buildings vs. non certified counterparts. A McGraw Hill 2006 Smart Market Report showed a 7.5% building value increase and 3.5% higher occupancy rates in LEED certified buildings. The Kennedy Associates Real Estate Counsel, LP reports seeing higher occupancy, rental rates, quicker lease-up and better tenant retention in LEED certified buildings. A Professor from the University of Berkeley along with two other professors from the Netherlands published a study called "Doing well by doing good? Green Office Buildings" that reported a 2% higher rent in certified (LEED and Energy Star) than non-certified commercial investment properties.

So obviously achieving certification isn't just a pat on the back and a plaque to hang on the wall. Certified projects are overall viewed as more valuable than their non-certified green counterparts. As consumers, we expect our products to back up their claims. If we demand a kitchen countertop be GreenGuard certified, why relax our requirements when it comes to a building over 10 times the size of that countertop? 

Links:

http://www.firemansfund.com/  - Fireman's Fund Insurance

http://www.ucei.berkeley.edu/PDF/seminar20090130.pdf  - "Doing well by doing good? Green office buildings."

http://www.costar.com/News/Article.aspx?id=D968F1E0DCF73712B03A099E0E99C679  - CoStar Certified Buildings Study

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=bldrs_lenders_raters.energy_efficient_mortgage - Energy Efficient Mortgages

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