Selling LEED In-House

Posted on August 2, 2010


You are excited: you have a project on the horizon and you have done your sustainable research. But there is a decision maker in your organization—boss, division chief, maybe a Board member—who is not sold on a LEED building.

How to proceed?

The party you are trying to win over will determine how you fashion your message, but it helps to be aware of the goals of the USGBC. LEED offers numerous benefits that are attractive on some level to almost everyone. Green design spheres of influence begin with building users, continue to the community, and provide global impact.  What’s not to like?

Think about the person you are selling to:  what are their ‘hot button’ issues and how does LEED meet those needs?  Additional profit or cost savings might be number one, and for the business case on green design, explore these financial reasons.  Otherwise:

  • Does LEED satisfy a need, tangible (functional use) or intangible (comfort)?
  • Will LEED provide a beneficial experience (performance, confidence) for them or the organization?
  • Can LEED secure specific valuable or measurable results for the organization?
  • Can LEED help the organization’s mission?

If none of those questions strike a chord…

Think of the potential marketing and PR opportunities:  company branding in the community; literature and logos; notoriety in press releases; a dedicated chunk of website and social media (stories, updates, initiatives, follow-ups); internal culture change (recycling, energy usage monitoring, vendor contracts) and industry recognition (speaking and writings engagements at trade shows, conferences, research and technical studies).

And there are fringe benefits. For instance, some municipalities offer discounted utility connection fees, civil engineering services like curb cuts and road improvements, and possibly priority permit processing if a project is a LEED prospect. Design elements related to LEED can directly impact the bottom line. 

A fair rebuttal interrogative on the healthcare side:  why so few LEED hospitals, which was broached here?  Yet the USGBC is aware of this and a LEED HC update explains the current status of LEED for Healthcare.

If all else fails:

Sell savings. Owner-operator buildings are the best targets for green design because owners value the energy cost savings. Owner-operators typically include:  hospitals, college and university, and government clients.

Sell with data. Early on in the green design landscape, when LEED was but a green chute of a program, charts, graphs and stats on cost benefits were hard to come by. Now search engines turn up this info with ease, and from reputable sources from higher education to the U.S. Green Building Council itself, vendors, industry consultants, and the federal government. In addition, many institutions (frequent buyers of green design) have done analysis on specific LEED credits to facilitate value judgments on which credits provide the best value per dollar spent.

Sell missed opportunities. As Kim Shinn, a seasoned LEED authority with TLC Engineering for Architecture related once, “Brute force design does not cure all.” Modern technologies allow us to overcome even the most unforgiving building environments, but engineering away insensitive design choices will not win.  End waste and tap into the classical design strategies that green design was based upon.  Over 90% of the population participates in only one new building project during their lifetime; make it matter.

Register for LEED now, think about it later.  You can always decide to not continue, but it is much more difficult to retroactively decide to go green and collect info and document decisions after-the-fact. Good luck winning over the stubborn non-believer in your organization.