LEED Certification vs. Equivalency: Which is Best for Your Project?

LEED-CI GoldImplementing green building strategies has increasingly become the norm for many projects across the country, both large and small. As more companies choose to implement sustainable strategies into the design and construction of their projects, the questions inevitably become, “Should we pursue LEED certification, and how much will it impact our budget?”

The Alternative to Certification, Equivalency

In an attempt to avoid the inherent costs of LEED documentation while maintaining a benchmark by which to measure the project’s sustainability goals, some projects are pursuing what is commonly referred to as LEED equivalency. In other words, using the framework of the LEED Rating System as guidance throughout the design and construction process, without enduring the time and effort to compile and submit the documentation for review to GBCI. By making assumptions and using rough estimations, projects that are targeting LEED equivalency instead of formal certification may be able to reduce or eliminate many of the costs associated with LEED documentation.

Time, Cost Reduction vs. Recognition, Marketability

In theory, the idea of LEED equivalency has merit since project teams still incorporate the stringent set of standards required by LEED while significantly reducing the time and costs involved with documentation. In practice, however, LEED equivalency does not always work because the project’s sustainability achievements are not verified by an independent body nor are they recognized by the building community at large. Projects pursuing LEED equivalency must forfeit the marketability that comes with formal certification, less they run the risk of being accused of “greenwashing” – making environmental claims without any basis to back them up.

As with any green building strategy or product, when choosing whether to pursue LEED certification or opt for LEED equivalency, owners and projects teams must evaluate their intentions behind seeking a formal certification. Ultimately it all comes down to the time-old question: What are the costs and what are the benefits?

Click here to read full article. (Alex Spilger and Brad Gates. “LEED Certification vs. Equivalency: Which is Best for Your Project?” THE LEADER January/February 2012: 32-34.)

Learn more about BCCI’s LEED Consulting Services.

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