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LEED for Homes Basic Process and Fees

by Chad Ludeman on March 21, 2008 · 12 comments

in Green Programs,LEED

LEED for Homes Basic Process

The LEED for Homes system follows five basic steps:

  1. Contact a LEED for Homes Provider and join the program.
  2. Identify a project team.
  3. Build the home to the stated goals.
  4. Certify the project as a LEED home.
  5. Market and sell the LEED home.

In our 100k project we chose Magrann Associates as our LEED provider. They are one of two local providers for our area that we could have chosen from. I also registered Postgreen as a USGBC member before registering each of the homes we are building for LEED certification. The registration and fee for each home must be sent in by mail and the projects are not officially registered until the USGBC has received their payment.

The next step is choosing the project team and we chose the following members for our team:

This makes a pretty well rounded team for our LEED process without being too big for easy decision making.

LEED for Homes Fees

There are two main fees that go along with every LEED for Homes project.

  1. USGBC fees for registering and certifying a project
  2. LEED for Homes Provider fees for consulting, inspections, documentation and Energy Star rating

These fees are what many builders complain about today. The USGBC fees are very reasonable and it is usually the Provider fees that really add to the budget. I can see how the average builder would not want to pay these fees, but for anyone whose top priority is to build an environmentally responsible home, the fees are reasonable and should not pose a significant barrier to adopting the LEED rating system.

USGBC LEED Fees

Single-Family Housing Multi-Family Housing Volume Pilot
Registration Certification Registration Certification Proposed
USGBC
Member
$150 $250 $450 $0.035 per
square foot

Flat Fee

$10,000

Non-Member $250 $350 $600 $0.045 per
square foot

As you can see the USGBC fees aren’t too bad at all. I think it’s a pretty easy argument that achieving LEED certification on any home will easily boost the sales value of the home by more than the USGBC fees alone.

LEED for Homes Cost Justification
The larger fees come from the local Providers and can easily run as high as $5,000 per home. If you look at this as just an extra fee then it can be hard to swallow. To make it more digestable I have broken it into the following three value added categories:

  1. Professional consultation that will result in a higher quality, energy efficient and green home.
  2. Third party inspections during construction to ensure the builder and his subcontractors are building every green and energy efficient feature as designed and intended.
  3. LEED Certification

So let’s say you pay $5,000 to your LEED Provider and split the fee into these three categories for roughly $1,700 each.

Is it worth $1,700 to receive professional consultation on your home design that will most likely increase the energy efficiency of your home by 10%, add a few very marketable green features and reduce the cost of a few line items on your construction estimate by using the latest and most cost effective measures in green building today? I would say, yes.

Is it worth $1,700 to have a third party inspect your builder’s construction of the home at three different points during the build, work with the builder to correct any mistakes and most importantly be the “bad guy” when necessary for you? Um, yes.

Is it worth $1,700 to get an official LEED certification and plaque that will dramatically increase the marketability of your home, set you apart in a competitive market and easily add $5,000 to the sale value? Heck yes!

These LEED Providers work hard for there fees. They may seem high at first glance until you really look at everything they are doing and the overall value they will bring to your project. There are no less than ten line items on our proposal from our LEED Provider and each one is well worth the cost.

Next we will introduce the LEED for Homes checklist and explain how the Home Size Adjustment is made prior to diving into the full checklist.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

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LEED for Homes Rating System - 100K Intro | 100khouse.com
April 2, 2008 at 12:03 pm

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sean March 24, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Theres a huge list of consultants and architects and builders at http://www.greencollareconomy.com. Add a new company or review one you dealt with

2 E. Whitaker Lee March 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm

If achieving LEED certification will increase the marketability of the home, and raise the sale price by at least $5000, I would think that this conflicts with the priority of keeping it affordable…

How do you reconcile the increased marketability of a LEED certified home with the desire to have a home that is affordable to a lower-income population?

Chad, I think this is a killer project. I just entered the development world, working for a non-profit affordable housing agency in Western Massachusetts. Your blog has been a great resource. Seeing others out there working toward green affordable housing (and making it seem hip!) helps me, in a good way, to romanticize my own job. It’s a breath of fresh air when knee-deep in the funding bureaucracy of HUD!

3 chad March 27, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Lee,

I was mainly trying to justify the cost of LEED for the average developer. I am making an effort to keep these affordable on my own and am more concerned with my ability to sell them quickly than for any type of premium.

The real value in LEED for me is the third party certification that forces us to implement everything as planned and pushes us to work harder on every detail of the design.

For instance, we just found that going to a new type of hot water heating system that our LEED provider recommended is going to increase the overall energy efficiency of the house by roughly 30%. This will save the homeowner mucho dinero over the lifetime of the home and is something we might not have caught without LEED and a third party involved…

Thanks for the complements on the blog. Helping non-profits was one of the inspirations for providing the level of detail we are on the blog from the beginning so it’s great to see the hard work is paying off.

4 Grant September 21, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I’m going to be Owner Building. I am hiring an architect to do the plans from my own CAD drawings, and will have an engineer stamp the structural design elements. I already figured I would need to hire an on-site supervisor. I was debating about whether or not I REALLY wanted to pay the extra money for LEED certification on my home.

If I choose to go with LEED certification, then I will probably most value the 3rd party inspection to ensure I am actually getting what I designed and paid for… I want a blower door test. I want every leak sealed. I want my HVAC system designed for the loads my energy-efficient home will generate (not over-sized or under-sized) and I want testing to ensure proper sizing “as constructed.” Whether or not I go for LEED certification, I WILL pay extra to have these inspections and tests done.

Considering the partner of the architect I want to hire to make the house plans from my CAD drawings and advise me on my design is a LEED provider, maybe I can negotiate the LEED certification as part of the overall fee… I’m glad you broke down where the money goes (only $600 to LEED) so that I understand my negotiating position better.

Since I intend to pay for such design guidance from my architect anyway, and I also intend to hire inspectors and run tests anyway, I’m beginning to think LEED certification may not cost me as much extra as I had presumed…

As a generic citizen, I want LEED certification for my home so that I can help improve local awareness of the viability and value of green building. If I am only paying an extra $2,000 or so to accomplish that (because I’m likely already paying the other $3,000 or so), then I’ll probably go for it!

5 chad September 22, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Grant – Glad to hear we were of some help in your decision of whether or not to go LEED. The third party being involved is really the key to its value in our opinion. Best of luck on your project. It sounds like it will turn out great due to your diligence.

6 Alan Fredrickson November 11, 2008 at 11:19 am

We are interested in doing a 276 unit apartment complex and getting certified. It is not clear whether the registration and certification fees are per apartment unit, or for the entire project. Any help is appreciated.

7 chad November 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

That would be LEED NC (New Construction) most likely so the fees in this post would not apply. I am not familiar with what fees could be for a project of this size. Most of the fees would probably come from your LEED Accredited Architect to manage all of the paperwork…

8 rdb January 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Alan – Chad is correct, you would register a large project like that under LEED-NC. There is a LEED for Homes Pilot running in 2009 for mid-rise projects, however it sounds like yours is large enough to warrant using LEED-NC.

Fees are different for LEED-NC projects. Registration is $450 for USGBC members and $600 for non-members. The review & certification fees are based on total square footage of the project. If it’s less than 50,000 or more than 500,000 SF, there are flat rates. Between those figures, the fee is calculated per square foot, and there are lower rates for USGBC members. You can find out more at the USGBC’s website: http://www.usgbc.org.

The cost of someone’s time to prepare and track the documentation makes up the majority of LEED-associated fees for any project. You can only get an estimate on that by talking to a design firm that does it. Make sure you find a firm that is well-experienced in LEED, to ensure that you aren’t paying for THEIR learning curve.

9 Chris K. April 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

BTW: This blog is great! Good source of info. I would like to throw it out there that I am a LEED consultant that is part of an architecture firm and we are certifying affordable senior apartments under the LEED for Homes rating system, one and two story units. The fees are lower and you get a quantity break on many fees the bigger the project. Also the Homes system is much easier to attain then NC when it comes to apartments. Just for consideration.
Thanks

10 Doyle Stafford Architect July 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

As an architect with over thirty years experience, I have always lamented the usurious fees that engineers, particularly MEP’s, charge for their services and the necessity to “re-design” them with a competent contractor because the design was poor or too expensive. After reading the fees being charged by LEED Providers and Raters, I take it all back!!!! The fees I have seen on this site and others are simply insane!!!! As we enter the new “Less Is More” era of residential design/construction – the idea of adding the cost of multiple players to procure LEED certification will defeat the very purpose that we, as designers, are trying to achieve. Lower cost, well designed, sustainable projects that meet our clients housing needs. Builders are a very creative lot when it comes to saving money. You can expect intense competition from other energy conscious entities or “providers” to provide a reasonable certification process to ensure that new homes are built to energy/sustainability standards that any architect or quality builder should provide anyway. The State of Tennessee Facilities Division, as directed by the State Architect, has already adopted its own, low cost set of standards for public buildings, cutting the cost of LEED Certification out of projects entirely. Just as in the public arena, residential construction is already burdened by onerous environmental “soft costs”. The cost of LEED certification will simply prove to be too burdensome and will be discarded for less expensive, better performance standards to ensure sustainability at a reasonable cost.

Doyle Lee Stafford Architect, NCARD
Nashville, Tennessee

11 Phil August 30, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Understanding USGBC needed to have QA/QC through LEED Homes Providers, limited contractors, were set prior to LEED AP for Homes. The process for determining LEED for Homes Providers after the initial RFQ deadline seems different than it was before the deadline. LEED AP has evolved from 2.2 to 3.0 and it will serve best interest for general public and USGBC for marketing, promoting LEED Homes. Abolishing Homes Providers/Home Rater and let LEED Homes AP coordinating and overseeing LEED Homes certification.

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