Certifying agency sees growing interest in green building

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is green by Florida Green Building Coalition standards.

The Kohl’s on University Parkway got its green certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.

The new G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School in downtown Bradenton and the new Saint Stephen’s Middle School are also pursuing LEED standards. And an elementary school slated for Sarasota County is following Green Globes standards.

Meeting “green building” standards depends on which sanctioning body you ask.

But in general the buildings that are certified green share a common theme: sustainable and energy efficiency practices.

“It’s really all about a healthier environment and being a good steward of the Earth with low energy and energy efficient use of the building,” said Mike Bryant, president of Fawley Bryant Architects, which has designed several “green” buildings in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

In general a building, whether commercial or residential, meets green certification by meeting a slew of criteria in several categories.

Among some of the categories used to measure a building’s environmental friendliness are water, energy, innovation and design, sustainable sites, health and materials.

Application fees are involved for gaining green certification, and a green building is slightly more expensive — by about 1 to 5 percent — to construct than a standard building. LEED certification fees for commercial buildings range from $1,250 to $15,000 for design review, $500-$7,500 for construction review, or $1,250-$22,500 for a combined design and construction review.

The Florida Green Building Coalition has application fees that range from $3,000 to $6,000 for commercial structures, while Green Globes’ fees range from $3,000 to $5,000 for commercial. However, green buildings are more cost efficient to operate in the long run.

“We only saw minor costs to get the minimum certification for LEED” for the new Brandenton school, Bryant said. “But there’s considerable savings in the amount of energy, amount of utilities that you use.”

Suzanne Cook, executive director of the Florida Green Building Coalition, said more developers, homeowners and government entities are inquiring about green certification.

“The Florida Green Building Coalition has seen continued growth in all project types,” Cook said.

The FGBC, which is based in Tallahassee, offers green certification for new and existing commercial, residential and governmental structures.

In addition, the coalition issues certification to government entities as “green governments” for meeting best environmental and energy efficiency practices.

In the first three months of this year, Cook said the Florida Green Building Coalition gave a green stamp of approval to 100 existing homes.

And there are 32 local governments in Florida in the process of obtaining green certification.

“Really, certification is not a difficult process,” Cook said. “What the challenge is for a lot of people is the learning curve. If they’re not familiar with green building practices and quality construction then they do have a little bit of a learning curve that they have to go through.”