Q+A with Paul Harris of Cole Harris Associates about the LEED certification process
David Snow’s camp on East Grand Lake in Forest City has been in his family for more than 100 years. When he decided to build a new home on the property with Paul Harris of Cole Harris Associates in Westport, Connecticut, and builder Mike Hewes of Hewes and Company in Blue Hill, they sought to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification to maintain the integrity of the property. Based on a 100-point system, the LEED levels of Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum are based on the environmental impact and human benefits of the building site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environment quality, and innovation in design. We spoke with Harris, a LEED Accredited Professional, about the process.
Q. WHAT DID THE LEED CERTIFICATION ENTAIL?
A. It requires the commitment of the entire team: the owner, architect, builder, landscape architect, engineers, and verification consultants. Once goals are defined, they help inform decision making throughout the project. In the case of this home, the LEED goals were
in step with the owners’ goals of stabilizing and improving the legacy of the property. These included minimal site disruption, drought- resistant indigenous plantings, water and energy efficiency, and the use of certified local materials and local contractors. Our mission was “built in Maine, made from Maine.”
Q. WHAT WAS THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING LEED GOLD?
A. Getting the right green consultants on board at the beginning ensured a high level of success. Once we built our core team (including the green and Energy Star raters, testing companies, and suppliers), it was a process not much different from what is encountered designing and constructing any ambitious project.
Q. WERE THERE ADDITIONAL COSTS INVOLVED IN CERTIFICATION?
A. I would estimate that the LEED requirements cost around 5 to 7 percent of the total construction budget. Some of this will be recouped over time due to less maintenance and improved energy efficiency. The consultant fees were extremely economical, and while third-party testing (for air and water quality, building envelope efficiency, and mechanical systems) does require extra effort and cost, our caliber of construction is at a level that anticipates some of the additional costs due to LEED requirements.
Q. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO GETTING CERTIFIED?
A. Primarily, it builds awareness that, with modest effort, any homebuilder can be a good steward to the environment and his or her community.