Saturday, October 15, 2005


With all the alphabet soup being tossed around this is a relatively new one. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) sounds like just another insidious inroad but the principles are sound even if the advocates are unprincipled.

Courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council and your tax dollars naturally:

I'm all for it. LEED is the codification of several disciplines each using careful thought in the design, approve, build, operate process for any construction. I've little doubt that most "points" awarded when pursuing sliver/gold/platinum status will generally end up in the total cost of ownership as being near or better than break even -but- (you knew there was a but in here someplace) it is not correct to imply inital costs are going to be within a few percent of conventional development costs. For but one instance mentioned is the following; adding 18 inches to ceiling heights. At first blush this appears to be a no-brainer; heating and cooling and general HVAC peak loading are all reduced. That is until you think about the plan changes, zoning compliance research, special orders, lighting re-calculations, preparations of special instruction bid packets for everything from sprinklers to duct work. The design/engineering alone is going to add several percent to the up front price before the first watt is "saved." And it gets more complex, cement production contributes about 12% of all endogenous CO2 in the atmosphere, in the case of a tilt-up with concrete walls how long until the "savings" makes up for having all that 18 inches of extra wall? There are examples of this kind all through the process. I personally strongly favor minimum site disturbance but that is often a very expensive decision if one less home or even a small percentage of leasable space is lost in the process.

Total cost of ownership is another interesting problem. Time is money and no doubt LEED is more time consuming. Money is (unsurprisingly) money and the extra upfront money is just another lost opportunity. There's little evidence that expensive infrastructure investments in these types of things can be recovered in the sales price thus preventing speculative properties from taking advantage of LEED. If the market is mixed with LEED and Conventional Development projects it naturally narrows the list of potential clients for the more expensive LEED. Lowest common denominator perhaps but in my opinion any cure is worse than the disease.

1 comment:

Seb said...