As a follow-up to my post yesterday about the costs of LEED certification, I was not surprised to read the following lead line in a local newspaper in Cary, North Carolina:

"Cary wants to be green. Just not certifiable."

According to the article, the local town council voted to skip the green building certification process because of the high costs.  "If the economy was in a better situation, I’d consider it," said Councilman Don Frantz, who made the motion to skip the certification. "But I just can’t see the justification on moving forward and spending extra money."

The Cary fire station is the perfect example of the dilemma faced by commercial developers and public owners seeking to embrace green construction.  For instance, the fire station will spend more than $100,000 on energy-saving features in the new construction.  However, it would cost the town approximately $41,500 in registration, certification and other costs to have the fire station become LEED certified, according to a town report.

At the heart of this debate is the recognition that, to some, the goal is energy and other savings over the life of the building, while, to others, the goal is focused on sustainability.  In other words, to the Town of Cary, the estimated cost savings of employing green standards is approximately $580,000 over the next five years.  Since cost savings was a driving factor, the $41,000 associated with the LEED certification process was a significant amount. 

Nonetheless, the Town had a number of proponents supporting certification.  According to Town Council members who supported the effort, "seeking LEED certification would ensure that high environmental standards would be met."

Given this background, why would an owner-developer want to seek LEED certification? Here are some initial thoughts on the issue: 

  1. It makes good business sense.  The LEED certification, which includes a rigorous third-party commissioning process, can offer compelling proof to you, your clients, and the community at large that you’ve achieved your environmental goals and your building is performing as designed.
  2. It is a good investment.  Not only do LEED certified building embody good business practices, the USGBC’s seal of approval can be a great investment and result in increased property values.  A LEED-certified building can garner a greater premium than a non-LEED certified building for the simple fact that it is … well … LEED-certified.  One provision here: the building standards should, in fact, result in operational cost-savings and energy cost-savings. 
  3. It provides good incentives. There are numerous state and local incentive programs that offer tax breaks, faster or cheaper permitting, and other incentive programs for seeking the LEED certification.  Whether it makes sense that lawmakers are basing these programs on USGBC’s LEED programs or incorporating LEED requirements into local building codes are not the issues.  Here, the issue is that you can in many locations receive great incentives for doing so.

Question: What additional benefits can you identify for the Town of Cary to go through the LEED certification process?