The Price of Gold: An Analysis of the Financial Costs of LEED Certification and the Role of LEED in Meeting Dalhousie’s Sustainability Objectives
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The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, now plays a major part in the design process of many major construction projects. Dalhousie University is no exception, having a Sustainable Building policy aiming for the second highest level of LEED certification on all new building projects since the policy was implemented in 2011 (Dalhousie University, 2011). This research project looked at LEED on Dalhousie’s Halifax campus, and specifically LeMarchant Place - a current LEED Gold candidate. Our findings indicated that the total cost for LEED certification for LeMarchant Place is between $480,000 and $2.4 million from the total building budget. These expansive results come from the findings that LEED costs can be anywhere from one percent to five percent of a construction project's overall costs and with the knowledge that LeMarchant Place was a $48 million project (R. Owen, Personal Communication, March 30, 2016) & (Solterre Personnel, Personal Communication, March 31, 2016). The money spent on LEED is not just for the certification. The process involves paying consultants, paying registration fees, certifying/check ups on contractors, and paying for the features that qualify your building. Each of these contribute to the cost, and each is unique for every project. Despite the process being complex, LEED appeals to many projects because: ● LEED is recognized as the universal standard for excellence for green buildings across 150 countries worldwide (CaGBC, 2015). ● The LEED rating system requires all projects to meet mandatory thresholds, typically based on additional third-party, industry-recognised reference standards (ASHRAE, US EPA 1992, et. al). ● LEED has had the greatest market penetration in North America, likely due to its adaptability for varying types of projects (Solterre Personnel, personal communications, March 31, 2016). ● LEED is a tool to help achieve green building goals (R. Owen, personal communication, March 30, 2016). Even in light of the large costs associated with LEED, after speaking to active experts and delving into the topic, we conclude that Dalhousie should continue to use the LEED system and recommend the University works towards integrating it further into their future construction projects.