Asa Foss says the biggest hit builders take when they don’t get certified is to their credibility.
“You have got to put your money where your mouth is,” he says. “Getting a certification is really the only way to prove that something has been done and verified.”
Foss, a director of LEED residential technical development at the US Green Building Council (USGBC), said using a verifier through a green certification program will actually save builders money by reducing waste and making a building run as efficiently as possible.
If 5 percent of a space is left uninsulated due to poor installation, then the space is going to lose 50 percent of effectiveness, Foss says.
“A project will pay a bunch of money for good insulation,” he says. “But, if it’s installed poorly, which it almost always is, it’s only going to perform at half of the level it should be at.”
But a verifier is trained to catch something like that.
“It doesn’t cost anything to install it properly, you just have to do it properly,” he says. “And that, frankly, is one of the most important benefits and why projects should be getting green certifications.”
One of the largest components of a certification program is making sure moisture strategies are implemented correctly, he says.
Moisture damage can destroy a building, and fixing the problem can cost as much as $42 million, says Carl Seville, a green building consultant.
“Even when you have people who are conscientious and trying to do a good job, there’s still risk,” he says. “One of the things I do with my clients is not cover up any of the exterior until I can inspect them."
Having a third-party source check a crew’s work is a costly addition to the green programs, but Seville believes it’s worth it. “You have an extra layer of insurance that it’s being done right,” he says.
Meet the New LEED
To keep up with changing standards and stay ahead of the curve, USGBC officials are releasing a new version of LEED at the organization’s November conference in Philadelphia.
The biggest change in the new version will affect multifamily buildings that are four- to eight-floors tall, according to Foss. Buildings in that size range had to option of using LEED for new construction or mid-rise, but under the new system, mid-rise will be mandated.
Tweaking the older certification system and making changes to the qualifications to focus on the most important aspects of being green, Foss says.
“Each time we do a rating system update we make it more stringent,” he says. “Energy codes are getting better, so we need to keep up with them. So, for us to remain a leadership standard, we have to increase the rigor of our rating system.”
LEED is Costly, But There are Other Standards
Brian Natwick, of Charlotte-based Crescent Communities, says each rating system is unique and although LEED may be the biggest, sometimes it isn’t always the best option for a community.
Evaluating green certifications against one another allows the developer to make the best choice for the community’s needs, says Natwick, the company's president of multifamily.
When the team at Crescent began drawing up the plans for a garden community, they chose to work with an Audubon International certification as opposed to LEED.
“If you wanted to implement LEED on a garden community, the certification doesn’t lend itself to it,” he says. “It becomes a cost-prohibitive certification.”
LEED certifications are one of the most well-known programs for builders, but sometimes the regulations aren’t cost-effective.
"We try to align the certification with the investment," Natwick says. "And I think money has to do with every decision we make."
Lindsay Machak is an Assistant Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.