Survey: Fewer Contractors Seeking LEED Certification for Sustainable Building

Ninety percent of survey respondents were committed to sustainable practices but only 48% said very likely to seek LEED certification

Turner Construction Company, recognized as a leading general builder and the largest green builder in the U.S., announced the results of a new Market Barometer survey that focused on environmentally sustainable, or "green," building, and on sustainable practices in general. Key findings revealed that companies remain committed to constructing greenbuildings. While executives remained committed to incorporating sustainable building practices into their building programs, fewer said their companies were likely to seek LEED certification from the US Green Building Council when constructing a greenbuilding.

Among real estate owners, developers and corporate owner-occupants, 64 percent said they expect to undertake new construction projects over the next 12 months (up from 46 percent in the 2010 survey), and 71 percent said they expect to undertake renovation projects over the same period (up from 58 percent in the 2010 survey).

Ninety percent of respondents said their companies were committed to environmentally-sustainable practices. Of that percentage, 56 percent of executives said their companies were extremely or very committed to following environmentally sustainable practices in their operations, while an additional 34 percent said they were somewhat committed. In addition to citing financial reasons for this commitment, executives were most likely to cite broader considerations as extremely or very important including:

  • 68% belief that it's the 'right thing to do'
  • 67% impact on brand/reputation
  • 61% customer requirements
  • 66% cost savings 

Reducing energy costs and operating expenses key drivers to green construction

Executives were most likely to cite financial factors as being important to their companies' decisions on whether to incorporate green features in a construction project. Respondents indicated that energy efficiency (84 percent) and ongoing operations and maintenance costs (84 percent) were extremely or very important to their decisions.

More than two-thirds of executives also said that non-financial factors were extremely or very important including:

  • 74% indoor air quality
  • 74% health and well-being of occupants
  • 69% satisfaction of employees/occupants
  • 67% employee productivity

However, only 37 percent of executives said it was extremely or very important to their companies to minimize the carbon footprint of their buildings.

This suggests that the decision to incorporate green features is driven by a desire to reduce cost followed by an interest to improve the indoor environment for building occupants rather than broader concerns about the impact of buildings on the global environment.

More than half of executives said their companies would be extremely or very likely to invest in improved indoor environmental quality (63 percent), improved water efficiency (57 percent), and green materials (53 percent) if they were undertaking a construction project.

"Energy efficiency figures prominently in the decision-making process of green building primarily because of its large economic impact. Water efficiency in green construction was seen as less important. This is in spite of a growing awareness that water is a finite resource, both in its operational use and its role in the production of goods and materials. While the direct economic impact of water efficiency is less than the savings on energy, its environmental impact is quite significant," said Michael Deane, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Turner Construction.

Fewer companies seeking LEED certification

Although the vast majority of companies remain committed to green buildings, the percentage of executives who thought it was extremely or very likely that their company would seek LEED certification if they constructed a green building was only 48 percent, down from 53 percent in the 2010 survey and 61 percent in the 2008 survey. Among executives who said their companies were not likely to seek LEED certification, the most important reasons cited were:

  • 82% cost of the certification process
  • 79% staff time required
  • 75% time required for the process
  • 74% overall perceived difficulty of the process

 It is apparent that in the last four years many companies seem to have become more knowledgeable about the means and methods of designing and constructing green buildings and are less reliant on LEED as a checklist or a scorecard, as indicated by 52 percent of executives saying that they were only somewhat or not likely to seek LEED certification when undertaking a construction project. At the same time, 41 percent of executives thought it was at least somewhat likely that their companies would consider seeking certification under a rating system other than LEED if they constructed a green building. Of those executives who indicated they would consider another system, 63 percent said they would be extremely or very likely to consider seeking certification under ENERGY STAR, which highlights the importance of energy efficiency. It should be noted that building owners may elect to certify under more than one rating system.

"We've seen from our own work and the continuing growth of the green building market that in spite of this reduction in enthusiasm for LEED certification, respondents are still building green," said Deane. "While some respondents are relying on their own standards or are considering another rating system, LEED certification remains the most widely used third party verification of achievement that is recognized by consumers and that can be used to market and promote a property."

When asked what length of payback period would be acceptable when considering green features, 44 percent of executives said they would accept five years and almost 80 percent of executives said they would accept a payback period of five years or longer. Despite the acceptance by most executives of an extended payback period, 6 percent% of executives still felt that the length of the payback period was an extremely or very significant obstacle to the construction of green buildings while 62 percent cited higher construction costs.

About the survey

Turner's 2012 Green Building Market Barometer surveyed 718 executives in October 2012. The executives participating in the survey were from the following principal types of companies:

  • architecture (49%)
  • construction (19%)
  • real estate consulting (11%)
  • corporate owner-occupant (9%)
  • developer (9%)
  • engineering (9%)
  • real estate owners (7%)
  • corporate tenant (3%)
  • broker/real estate service provider (2%)

These percentages total to more than 100 percent since some companies were involved in more than one industry segment.

Contact Turner Construction to view the full report.

About Market Barometer

Since 2005, Turner Construction has conducted bi-annual surveys of executives on green building issues. The surveys provide insight into how industry executives view environmentally sustainable buildings and the growing awareness of its importance in today's construction industry. The surveys show how opinions on the subject have evolved and give an indication of trends by comparing responses to similar questions over time. Turner believes that it is of great importance to monitor attitudes and opinions on this subject.

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