News Brief

GSA LEED Cost Study

by Steven Winter Associates for the U.S. General Services Administration, October 2004; 578 pages, 3.9 MB file downloadable from www.wbdg.orgThe U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which builds and manages real estate for much of the federal government, now requires all new construction and major renovation projects to be LEED®-certified, preferably at the Silver level. To support this goal, GSA typically allocates a 2.5% premium to cover green building construction costs. To find out whether this premium is appropriate, the agency commissioned a detailed cost study of two typical buildings.

The range of potential cost implications for a new courthouse and an office building modernization project are shown in this graph in relation to other budgeting benchmarks. Interestingly, even the highest-cost scenarios fall within GSA’s typical 10% design contingency at conceptual design phase.

Source: Adapted from “GSA LEED Cost Study”
The study, directed by John Amatruda of Steven Winter Associates, used a new five-story courthouse and a renovated nine-story office building for its analysis. Both buildings are similar in size at roughly 250,000 to 300,000 ft2 (25,000 to 30,000 m2), and both include underground parking. A baseline cost estimate was created for each of these buildings based on standard GSA guidelines. Six LEED cost scenarios were then created for each, reflecting low-cost and high-cost approaches to achieving LEED Certified, Silver, and Gold certification levels.

The report emphasizes that many of its findings are specific to GSA’s requirements and the building types selected. For example, GSA requires extensive commissioning and relatively high energy efficiency, so some LEED points are achieved in those areas at no additional cost over the baseline. On the other hand, circumstances specific to GSA limit the availability of other credits. Furthermore, the cost estimates may be overly conservative, in that potential tradeoffs and synergies between credits that can reduce costs were considered only in a very limited way. Nevertheless, with its detailed credit-by-credit and multiple-scenario analysis, this report is sure to interest many designers and developers contending with the cost of LEED projects.

Published December 1, 2004

(2004, December 1). GSA LEED Cost Study. Retrieved from

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