The green movement has swept across our industry
and has now entered the
collective lexicon of the general
public, as any designer or architect can attest. It seems that everyone these days wants to be “sustainable,” to “lower their carbon footprint,” and to build or renovate their homes and offices to be “healthy buildings.” And why wouldn’t they? We all have an innate desire to do the right thing. Being green satisfies our aspirations to help the environment and to create a better future for those who come after us.
In the United States, LEED has become the standard bearer for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. In fact, many jurisdictions at the federal, state and local levels are incorporating LEED guidelines into their building codes. Yet, despite the emerging trend, many companies have shied away from LEED certification as they make decisions with regards to the funding, construction and renovation of their facilities. The reasoning comes down to two ever-present realities: time and money.
While attaining LEED certification is considered by many to be the ultimate marker of sustainability, the reality is that it is not always easy, convenient or financially feasible. Chief amongst the barriers to certification that executives and business
owners publicly cite are the sizable corporate commitment and dedication of resources required. The most common reason that design professionals hear directly from clients is that LEED certification is simply too costly. Often times, this assertion rings quite true.
It has been reported that the upfront cost of LEED certification can increase total project costs by up to 10 percent. Sustainability proponents point to reduced life-cycle costs from energy savings
and durability as a counterpoint, but this can be a difficult sell to a client whose capital expenditures budget is stretched as it is. There are alternatives to LEED certification, however, and many companies are more willing to commit to environmentally sustainable practices when design professionals can utilize the process of green integration.
Green integration is very similar to the design-build model, where the design team works in
tandem with the contractor to keep costs down and expedite the construction process. Similarly, green integration encourages innovation and
collaboration amongst architects, designers,
programmers, engineers and contractors for the collective purpose of achieving economically feasible sustainability solutions. While green integration may not directly result in the coveted LEED certification, it can provide many of the same life-cycle cost savings at a lower upfront cost.