An acquaintance asked me recently, “What is a building owner’s incentive for pursuing LEED certification?” He answered his own question with a few ideas: To demonstrate to the world that your company cares about the environment, to put a plaque on your building, bragging rights. While these can be incentives, I would certainly hope that the building owner has been educated about the REAL incentives, and is pursuing LEED certification for his/her building for the right reasons.
My response to his question was simple: cost savings to the owner. Cost savings is something even an owner who is apathetic about conserving resources and saving the environment wants. EA Credit 1 can help accomplish this cost savings. The achievement of this credit can not only bring in the most LEED points of any other credit, but it can also result in the majority of energy cost savings. The requirement is that one demonstrate, using a computer simulation model, a percentage improvement in the proposed building performance rating compared with the baseline building performance rating according to ASRHAE Standard 90.1-2007. For a new construction project, a 12% improvement is worth 1 point, and a 48% improvement is worth a whopping 19 points. To put 48% energy savings in perspective, a building owner whose energy cost would be $100,000 per year in a baseline building, would be saving approximately $48,000 per year.
So how can 48% energy cost savings be achieved? That CAN be a very complicated answer which is daunting to building owners, but the answer can also be simple: follow the ASHRAE 50% Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG). This guide will lead the way to achieving a 50% energy savings compared to buildings that meet minimum requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004. While EA Credit 1 in LEEDv2.2 requires comparison to 90.1-2004, LEEDv3.0 requires comparison to 90.1-2007. ASHRAE has indicated that Standard 90.1-2007 is approximately 11.8% more stringent than 90.1-20041. Therefore, one can assume that the ASHRAE 50% AEDG is approximately 38.2% more stringent than 90.1-2007.
One must keep in mind; however, that EA Credit 1 awards points for energy COST savings percentage, not energy savings percentage. We all know energy costs aren’t cheap, so a 38.2% energy savings likely results in a much greater energy cost savings. So the answer to the original question, “What is a building owner’s incentive for pursuing LEED certification?” In one word that is attractive to the majority of building owners: money.
1 ASHRAE.org, 2011