In recent years, research has shown that LEED Certified buildings have been gaining market traction and can significantly increase the sales price of a building. A recent study by Cushman & Wakefield found that price premiums for LEED certified office buildings were 25-75% higher per square foot than non-certified office buildings (with variation accounted for by location and office building type). Many LEED office buildings are new construction projects, but with LEED for Existing Buildings (EB), the 60 billion+ square feet of commercial and industrial buildings in the U.S. can benefit from a LEED certification as well. Based on VCA Green’s recent experience working with the LEED (EB), we have seen that the certification process is very achievable and can provide significant operational opportunities for cost savings in the process. VCA Green has assisted in pursuing LEED EB O&M certifications for buildings that have documented real savings, such as:
- $22,000 annual electric bill savings resulting from energy audits in a large office building
- 37% reduction in landscape irrigation water use for a large apartment building complex
- $5,500 annual electric bill reductions for amenity spaces in a 150-unit multifamily building
Addressing the following three critical areas early in the project will make the process smooth and maximize the opportunities for cost savings along the way.
Review your data early: Since the LEED EB rating system is heavily dependent on operational data, it is important to start by benchmarking your building. Many properties already have strong energy benchmarking in place, but energy is not the whole picture. Water consumption benchmarking and waste benchmarking are also important components of the LEED EB rating system. By reviewing your data early, you can identify cost reduction opportunities that will also help with achieving higher LEED scores.
Pay attention to water: Small leaks can have large impacts on the total water use in a building. By benchmarking a building’s water use, a project can identify significant water leaks. We have seen considerable water savings opportunities for irrigation leaks, plumbing fixture leaks, supply pipe leaks, and cooling tower make-up water leaks. Given how much water a cooling tower uses, notable water savings can often be achieved with small operational changes to a cooling tower.
Don’t rush the certification: It is possible for many buildings to simply document existing data and operational processes to get a LEED EB certification, but by rushing the certification, your project might lose out on opportunities for improvement that can affect the LEED certification level, as well as reduce operating costs. To maximize the benefit of a LEED EB certification, plan for three project phases:
- Initial Assessment: data collection, benchmarking, and auditing
- Implementation: implement findings from the benchmarking and auditing process
- Document: Collect and report data for the 12 months following the implementation
Existing buildings are a major cause of resource inefficiencies in the U.S. By analyzing where your operational costs are coming from and correcting any observed inefficiencies along the way, you can easily save thousands of dollars per year, and more money in your pocket means more opportunities for further advancement in your business for years to come. For more information on how to optimize the way your building operates, contact Moe Fakih below.
Contributing Writer: David Magarian, LEED AP
Moe Fakih, Principal