As many of my community college students will tell you, the answer to this question is… it depends!
When evaluating a LEED for New Construction project, I encourage you to review the individual credit categories – many credits have minimal (or no!) cost to implement.
Many of the credits that apply to sustainable construction practices have become “standard” on Blach projects. Here are a few of these common practices.
Sustainable Sites - Many individual credits associated with the project are “free,” you just need to document adjacencies to public transit and community services that are already in place.
Water Efficiency - High-efficiency plumbing fixtures do not cost much more than standard fixtures. Many of these high-efficiency fixtures are also mandatory requirements of the CALGreen (California Building Standards Commission) building code. In my professional opinion, it is typically easy to get to 30% water savings without spending extra money. This amounts to a total of 2 “free” points.
Energy & Atmosphere - CALGreen and Title 24 energy requirements will typically result in at least 15% energy reduction. This amounts to a total of 2-3 “free” points.
Material & Resources - Construction waste management practices to divert 75% of waste are already the standard on Blach projects; total of 2 “free” points.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) - Utilizing common construction materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is something we’re all accustomed to doing. Having comprehensive IEQ plans before and during the construction process is also becoming a standard practice/procedure for many projects (and are required by CALGreen). This amounts to a total of 8 “free” points.
Innovation In Design - Having a LEED AP staff member on the project is essentially “free.” Other innovative, no-cost ideas from the design/construction team could result in 2 additional “free” points.
Regional Priority - I like to call these “credits on steroids.” Projects automatically receive extra points for credits achieved in the main categories (listed above). For buildings in the greater Bay Area, regional priority credits are typically related to water efficiency, renewable energy and human comfort (daylight and views). This could amount to a total of 2-3 additional “free” points.
Many aspects of sustainable construction don’t necessarily cost more; you just have to be smart about how you approach it!