There is a common misconception that a "Green" or LEED®-certified building has to cost considerably more than a run-of-the-mill design that just meets minimum building and energy codes. While this was true in the early days of the US Green Building Council (USBGC) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Guidelines, it is no longer the case 10 years later.
With thousands of LEED-certified buildings in the United States, there is now a considerable body of statistical evidence that demonstrates that the LEED "Certified" rating, and even the "Silver" rating can be attained at minimal additional cost. The proviso is that the Architect, the MEP Engineer and the General Contractor must all have had experience in designing and constructing buildings to LEED Guidelines – and the owner must have been planning to build a building that was somewhat better than the minimum codes.
With the changes in the 2009 version of the LEED Guidelines it is really not that difficult, and not that expensive, to achieve the Certified or Silver ratings. There must be personnel assigned to the project who are familiar with the LEED system of prerequisites and credits throughout the six checklist categories. These people must be knowledgeable and able to guide the team in achieving the certification requirements. This will minimize the additional time required to coordinate the design, the trades and the paperwork.
The key is to get everyone involved in the project, including the Owner, on the same page and working together - from the beginning of the project. The next article will address how to do this.