perspectives2(300)Project owners, architects and engineers are trying to implement LEED-based sustainable-design practices from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council while keeping projects within budgets. Many sustainable-design professionals say “it costs no more” to do a sustainable project or “it costs between 1 and 4 percent of the total construction cost.” Who is right? What are the costs? What factors affect the price? Can these projects cost less if materials are reused? To help solve LEED-cost issues, MHTN Architects Inc., Salt Lake City, has developed EarlyEco, a cost-estimating system to control budgets of LEED projects. It was first developed for use with LEED for New Construction projects but has been expanded into LEED for Core and Shell; LEED for Existing Buildings; LEED for Schools; and LEED for Laboratories, which soon will be released.

USING EARLYECO

EarlyEco helps organize and analyze the data for each LEED credit and credit option. Each of the credit line items has been analyzed by a professional conceptual estimator. The synergies between credits also have been evaluated and are part of the formulas embedded in the program. The EarlyEco program is customized for each project by inputting 28 key design factors regarding the site and building. These include building size, number of building occupants and location. The output then is analyzed by a LEED AP and compared to project consultants’ costs related to the specific design and bidding conditions of the current market. It is important to define the sustainable and energy-savings goals of the team in the early phases of design. When these are identified early, the design team can focus on LEED credits and categories that fit within the budget and match the overall project goals. The objective is not to “chase credits” but rather to work with the client to define options and related costs in a timely manner. Too often clients, designers and consultants pursue sustainable-design solutions that are not within the project budget. EarlyEco identifies the conceptual cost early, so the client and design team can design a sustainable project within budget.

The EarlyEco process includes the following steps:

• Define requirements to achieve client project design and sustainable goals.

• Define the 28 key EarlyEco building-input attributes.

• Input key attributes into the EarlyEco computer program.

• Tabulate LEED costs using the EarlyEco program.

• Chief cost estimator and LEED AP review credits to customize the data to site parameters and unique site costs.

• Update information in EarlyEco program to reflect site-specific information and present to client and design teams.

• Working together, the client and design teams refine the information and agree on LEED credits and costs.

• Finalize information in EarlyEco program with adjusted credits and costs.

• Obtain final approval of LEED credits to pursue and establish their costs.

• Expand EarlyEco spreadsheet to calculate total consultant fees.

• Complete final sustainable contract or contract amendments for fees.

• Perform separate energy analysis and life-cycle cost analysis to quantify benefits.

Future EarlyEco improvements will include more input and output capability to clearly identify synergies between design strategies, strategies that add value to the project above and beyond energy savings, and client or programmatic requirements.

EARLYECO CASE STUDY

perspectives1(300)MHTN Architects renovated its office with the goal of being a LEED-EB Platinum facility. Construction is complete, and LEED certification is in review. The budget for the project was $1,352,950; final cost was $1,349,658. The costs associated with each potential LEED category are shown on the EarlyEco cost spreadsheet, page 62. The extra LEED cost was $144,570 with a per-year savings of $46,607. The project payback is 3.1 years.

EarlyEco provided some valuable cost and benefit input early in the design process that allowed the team to focus their efforts and maintain project goals. For example, Energy & Atmosphere Credit 1.3, Optimize Energy Performance—HVAC, estimated a high initial cost with little benefit or return. This was because of the lease structure that portions out HVAC costs to tenants based solely on their percentage of space and not on the amount of energy they use. The design team confirmed EarlyEco’s projections.

On the other hand, EA Credit 1.1, Lighting Power, and 1.2, Lighting Controls, showed high initial cost with tremendous potential for reduced energy-cost savings during the life of the project. In addition, the lease had been structured to meter the tenant’s direct electrical use, so these savings could go directly to the tenant.

Another example of EarlyEco’s input influencing the design team was the cost savings potential of Materials & Resources Credit 1.2, Building Reuse—Maintain 40 Percent of Interior Non-Structural Components. Although this was an established project goal, initial computations of reuse fell short of the goal and LEED criteria. It had been assumed existing ceiling tile could not be reused because of its poor light-reflectance characteristics. Because EarlyEco had identified the tiles’ positive savings capability, the team took another look and realized the better-lightreflectance ceiling tile only was necessary around light fixtures. By creating a repeating pattern in the ceiling clouds, existing ceiling tile was reused in the other areas and the LEED criteria was met.

MAINTAINING COST CONTROL

LEED is a good basis for understanding sustainability and energy-conscious design. From MHTN Architects’ experience, costs for following LEED guidelines often are low and payback can be accomplished within a few years. Because the credit costs vary significantly, it is important to select LEED credits that represent a high level of sustainability and energy savings and are within the proposed project budget. A design team needs to work together to make decisions that are cost effective. EarlyEco can help the team make critical decisions and achieve a successful project.

LEED is a good basis for understanding sustainability and energy-conscious design. From MHTN Architects’ experience, costs for following LEED guidelines often are low and payback can be accomplished within a few years. Because the credit costs vary significantly, it is important to select LEED credits that represent a high level of sustainability and energy savings and are within the proposed project budget. A design team needs to work together to make decisions that are cost effective. EarlyEco can help the team make critical decisions and achieve a successful project.

BRUCE HAXTON and GLEN BECKSTEAD are co-developers of the EarlyEco costing system for LEED projects. Haxton is a senior project manager and design architect with MHTN Architects Inc., Salt Lake City. Beckstead is the chief cost estimator at MHTN Architects. MYRON WILLSON is the director of sustainable design and a senior associate of MHTN Architects. They can be reached at bruce. haxton@mhtn.com, glen.beckstead@mhtn.com and myron.willson@mhtn.com, respectively.

A sample of the EarlyEco computer printout for MHTN Architects Inc.’s office renovation, a LEED for Existing Buildings project

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Q&A ABOUT EARLY ECO

plat3(300)QUESTION: Can EarlyEco be obtained by architects? Is it for sale?

ANSWER: The EarlyEco system is an internal tool used by Salt Lake City-based MHTN Architects Inc. in conducting its design business.

QUESTION: How do you account for differences in base-case conditions?

ANSWER: There are different clients and different locations that affect the base conditions. Before we run EarlyEco, we adjust for those differences. On projects including certain items that also are required by LEED, we remove these items from LEED cost information and include the item under the base building information. For example, when a client commissions a project, we remove the commissioning cost from LEED and place it in the base building information.

QUESTION: Tracking LEED costs “by credit” neglects the fact that increased costs on one system may result in a reduction of costs of another system. Better-insulated windows would be a “LEED cost” but these windows could reduce the cost of mechanical systems for a reduced overall cost. What if a building is being designed with a more efficient HVAC system (LEED item) costing $200,000 less than the conventional HVAC system. Should this be counted as “LEED savings” or “negative cost?”

ANSWER: The difference is a LEED savings. The synergy costs are taken into account on a credit by credit basis and are part of the formulas embedded in EarlyEco.