Article Date: 10/29/2012

What Is the True Cost of Getting a Building Certified as Green via LEED, BREEAM, or DGNB?

By Steve Rizer


Just how much money will it take to cover the direct and indirect costs of getting a building certified as green? There are, of course, multiple variables affecting the true cost of certification for any given project, but during a recent WPL Publishing webinar, green building expert Kelly Gearhart provided some helpful insight into what expenditures can be expected when pursuing green building labels through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen e.V. (DGNB) rating systems.


“[F]or a typical LEED project -- and what I mean by that in this context is a new construction project -- you can expect to pay around $1,200 to register [it],” said Gearhart, Triple Green Building Group LLC principal. She noted that actual certification for such a project will average about $0.045 per square foot. In addition, specialists will need to be paid for their work.


For BREEAM, pursuing certification as a community development will run approximately £5,000 ($US8,018) for “the beginning stages,” she said, adding that certification will cost roughly another £5,000 with further outlays for specialists (i.e., planning and consulting).


“And for DGNB, [when estimating] an average [for] a mid-range building size, you are going to be looking at certification costs of €18,000 ($US23,337) plus €0.17 ($US0.22) per square meter” with specialist costs adding to that total, Gearhart said. She reported a recent estimate that there is less than a 0.5 percent premium for planning and consulting associated with DGNB-certified buildings.


Gearhart stressed that these estimates will change relative to multiple variables, such as whether the party pursuing certification becomes a member of the organization whose rating system is being used. “Each of these organizations tend to offer member discounts. Each of these organizations also tend to have different levels of costs, depending on the kind of project that you are embarking on. For example, if you were pursuing the certification as a small commercial office building, the cost for doing that -- the cost to these organizations to help you with that -- is dramatically different than if you are asking them to help you with certifying a 50-acre neighborhood development, so keep that in mind.”


Gearhart additionally discussed the basic certification process for achieving certification, international market leaders, the documentation process for certification, minimum standards, resources, and other topics.


A recording of the webinar with slides can be purchased via the following link:



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