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The Biggest Lie About LEED

The biggest lie is that money that goes toward LEED takes away from money for solar panels or other things. LEED isn't an add-on construction cost, but rather a quality-control check for the team. Read more from LEED User below:

I actually love it when someone questions the value of paying for LEED certification.

I know lots of people are thinking it. If they're saying it out loud, it's a chance to talk about it. Look at this email I got recently:

"I am putting up a passive house Daycare project and I must choose between adding solar panels to make it energy net zero or LEED certification"

Yes, if you are putting LEED certification cost in the same kind of bucket as your other costs, you've entered a zero-sum game. Money that goes to LEED takes away from money for solar panels, or ultimately, diapers.

But it's the biggest lie.

LEED isn't an add-on construction cost. It's not a plaque you pay for and tack on at the end of the day.

LEED is a quality-control check for your entire team, including you. Check out how this designer put it in an email:

"The rigor of the LEED process is what we hold up as an important aspect. In the heat of construction or value engineering, it is easy to swap out a material, change a system, or make a significant change which may impact sustainable desires. Few teams will have the persistence to maintain everything in the original project. Using the third party process through LEED certification as a justification to keep ourselves to the promises we made at project outset is a big benefit of the process."

Do you see the difference? Having LEED on the project is like having an extra team member. One who won't let you just change stuff willy-nilly without an objective, goals-based discussion. By definition it's a team member that's stands outside of the project team circle, but who's there to hold you accountable. And LEED is a team member whose standards and objectivity have been developed over 20 years of history and countless hours of development by our entire industry.

Once you adopt this mindset, you're part of the way to getting the most out of LEED. I'd add at least two more pieces:

  • Use the LEED process. The energy modeling, the commissioning, the goal-setting, and all the technical reviews should, if you use them intentionally, drive down the cost of your project while driving the level of quality higher.
  • Work with experts. A lot of time can be wasted because teams don't know how to do LEED documentation or how to address reviewer comments. Experience goes a long way. There's always more to know and there are always unique project situations.