Economic Concerns Could Affect Green Building Efforts

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Workers lay solar panels on a rooftop

With a difficult economic climate, Hawaii is concerned that the additional costs of green buildings may not be justified. Photo: Flickr/Wayne National Forest

Hawaiian businesses are re-evaluating the benefits of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building, according to a recent article by Pacific Business News.

According to Hawaiian industry experts, the financial benefits of a green building are not achieved for several decades, and the up-front costs may pose a challenge in the current economy. It estimates that owners can expect to pay between 2 and 6 percent more to build LEED-certified buildings.

This feeling is a little different on the mainland, where builders are still interested in green building but not necessarily the certification. The Santa Monica Daily Press reports that certification alone can cost up to $200,000, since it’s based on the square footage for the project.

One of that area’s largest developers, Community Corporation of Santa Monica, has 80 properties that have green characteristics, but only one had applied for LEED-certification as of 2009.

Builders can look for grant assistance to reduce the costs of green building. In Hawaii, the American Recovery and Investment Act granted over $1.6 million to weatherize 650 homes in the state, which will improve their energy-efficiency.

State law also requires any new government agency buildings to be constructed within the guidelines of LEED Silver standards, but it says nothing about whether each building is required to apply for certification.

LEED certification comes in four levels — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — and there is a charge for certification because it involves a third-party auditing process from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to measure building performance in a number of factors. Certification does come with tax rebates, special zoning allowances and other local incentives that basic green building would not provide.

While some companies are weighing the value, this month the USGBC certified its 5,000th project and has almost 20,000 in the certification queue.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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