Sustainability & LEED Consulting

Green Costs and LEED Certification: What Does it Mean For You?

Green is most certainly the new black – and everyone who can afford to go green is doing so. Note: the key phrase in that sentence is “everyone who can afford to go green” – that’s right, folks, going green can be pretty expensive especially when it’s commercial real estate that you’re talking about. Below we highlight some things you need to understand about green buildings – and what LEED certification means for you.

First and foremost: What is LEED certification?

LEED certification is The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

There are four different levels of LEED certification (certified, silver, gold, and platinum).

Buildings that aim for LEED certification build their properties based on the tenants of the LEED rating system – these include the use of recycled material, reducing the amount of waste leaving a job site, using sustainable building material, and utilizing low-emitting materials.

Buildings who have followed the above guidelines can then submit an application for LEED certification.

Applications are reviewed by The Green Building Council and if accepted, are awarded one of the above levels.

Utilizing sustainable materials and building according to the LEED guidelines isn’t cheap.

There are also fees associated with applying for LEED certification.

That being said, here are some things to know:

Most of the green buildings here in New York City tend to be new construction, and tend to be very expensive. As emphasized above, it’s expensive to build a sustainable building, and expensive to apply for and obtain LEED certification.

A green building = a higher price per square foot. It costs the landlord money to put the green elements in; therefore, you’re going to pay more when it comes to rent.

75-80% of the buildings in New York are 50 years or older, thanks to the building boom that followed The Green Depression. These buildings aren’t at all eco-friendly. Landlords have taken measures to make them greener, such as adding new windows, but there’s only so much that can be accomplished by retrofitting.

Virtually every landlord is talking about going green, but few can afford to walk the walk. Consider this: a landlord would have to evacuate his tenants to make any large changes on an old building. No landlord is going to kick out tenants just to retrofit his space and make it more expensive.

As of now, renting in a green building won’t save you as the tenant any money – in fact, it’ll cost you more.

Wondering why any of this is important? Most people think that the carbon footprint we’re creating is thanks to transportation. They’re wrong. Buildings give off 2/3 of the carbon emission in the world, whereas transportation only makes up 1/3. In short, even though going green is expensive, we can’t afford not to.

For more information regarding the subject of this article, contact Beth Wade, Executive Director of ITRA Global at or 1.706.654.3201