Drexel University Releases Green Globes Vs. LEED Cost Comparison Study

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

The Green Building Initiative (GBI) has announced a recent study completed by Drexel University professor Jeffrey Beard that shows GBI’s Green Globes certification process is significantly less expensive to conduct and faster to complete than LEED certification.

“Green Globe certification gives the market a choice among certification systems and provides competition that helps improve results for users, resulting in more innovation and lower costs over time,” GBI President Jerry Yudelson said. “In this project, the cost savings to the University were on the order of $1.00 per square foot, a significant number for a large building.”

The final report, prepared by Beard, an associate professor in the 
Department of Construction Management at Drexel’s College of Engineering, is titled A Study of Comparative Sustainability Certification Costs/Green Rating System Cost Comparison Study: LEED and Green Globes. Beard’s research examined:

  1. Intrinsic hard costs – allocable on a line-by-line basis – for meeting criteria in each of the rating systems;
  2. Soft costs, whether accounted for as part of the indirect project costs or secondary soft costs that arose as a result of the project, but were otherwise allocated or absorbed; and
  3. Optional costs arising from implementation of the two green building rating system

The research was confined to the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building at Drexel’s West Philadelphia campus, a five-story, 130,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building that opened in 2011.

A key variance in the two rating systems that was revealed by the study was the cost of using each for the Papadakis building. The breakdown summarized in the university’s records indicates internal (staff time) costs at Drexel for administering both systems were more than $125,000 for LEED versus $9,000 for Green Globes. The report’s summary shows aggregate green building costs (i.e., hard cost premium, soft costs and optional costs for sustainability rating) nearly 15% higher for LEED than for Green Globes. The table below illustrates cost differences between LEED and Green Globes in several key areas of design, management and assessment.

LEED Cost Comparison

Funding for the study came from the Green Building Initiative. However, Professor Beard conducted the research without any oversight from GBI, using timesheets and other records of administrative costs maintained by the project team and Drexel University.

The Papadakis Building received three Green Globes from GBI and a LEED Gold rating from the US Green Building Council. The architects were Toronto, Canada-based Diamond Schmitt Architects and H2L2 of Philadelphia. Turner Construction Company provided construction services.