Why use sustainable design certification programs?
Sustainable design is still a mystery to most clients. Clients do not only fail to grasp the overall ideas behind sustainable design, but they are also confused about the value of seeking and obtaining a certification for sustainable design through a third-party organization. Sure, they have heard of certification programs that are available, and may have toured a few green certified buildings. However, they also hear about how certification programs are expensive- both in time and money- and question if they are necessary.
My approach to addressing these questions and the overall confusion starts with providing an informational/educational overview of sustainable design for the client and all the key stakeholders. As part of this, I cover the basics related to energy, water, materials, and indoor air quality, etc. I make the case that sustainably designed buildings will use less water and energy and that these buildings are likely to save substantially on building operational costs. Further, I address the benefits for occupants as they relate to indoor quality, specifically thermal comfort, access to natural light, and natural ventilation (fresh air).
After this introductory explanation, I expand on benefits such as cost savings associated with lower energy costs. I'll run some basic financial analysis to compare cost premiums for various energy options and how they measure against payback in the form of energy savings. This gives clients something more tangible on which to measure the potential return on investment (ROI). I will also apply this approach with water consumption and savings. I focus on the "preservation of resources" and appeal to a company's brand identity to be more socially responsible. I'll describe how sustainable design establishes an increased indoor air quality with the potential to positively affect occupant's health overall.
My belief is that having a third-party involved in the sustainable design process is the best way to obtain the highest level of accountability from the entire project team. Third-party certifications are unbiased and require that the intentions behind the green strategies are realized at project completion and during ongoing occupancy. If I see that the client is still balking about this certification, I will make an analogy, like comparing a pick-up game at the local gym with friends to one that is attended by a paying audience and professional players with skilled referees. Like a game played in front of an audience, a sustainable design certification is more significant and legitimate.