You just did a kickoff meeting and the costs associated with LEED certification have ballooned out of proportion. This will happen in many situations depending upon your projects: scope, planning stages in pursuit of cost intensive credits and inadequate preassessment.
Our experience on LEED projects ranges from government buildings, schools and commercial spaces both domestically and internationally. We often get the statement "just for the certification cost alone I could add multiple solar panels on the roof". Well that is true and actually in my opinion is not the developer the USGBC is targeting.
So what buildings are being target by the LEED rating system?
A few good examples of an easy LEED application process and decision-making situation that would be an obvious choice of pursuing the LEED designation includes:
Current projects in California or other locations with strict building codes
Current building codes and standards are very strict and with little modification can become at the very least LEED certified.
Companies that have environmental mandates
Many companies just want to improve their image because they either have a bad reputation for pollution or have a targeted consumer audience that appreciates any environmental enforcement. Another added benefit is pursuing credits that increase worker production and happiness (thermal comfort and natural sunlight to name a few).
Government buildings and schools adopting LEED
Many current if not all projects require LEED to "keep on pace" with stricter building codes. This requirement is to provide a uniformed standard to achieve regardless of local zoning codes. Even across the US many states have drastically different general codes.
Literally anything overseas in developing and developed countries with little to no extensive regulation
We get a lot of projects from the Middle East that have developers with open checkbooks and little code requirements currently enforced in their region. If the local contracted engineers just built without a guided planning process that focuses on international standards then projects would continue to have critical problems. For example, we just talked with a developer in South Korea that built a sky rise but had major problems with Formaldehyde and paint odors actually making people sick after the employees moved in. Simple changes that are not currently regulated would have eliminated a real problem.
So why get my LEED AP if my developer is not the types listed above?
Regardless if you pursue LEED on a project after your initial assessment, many choices that you can incorporate on ANY project cost little to no difference in construction cost. Fully understanding the complete rating system and being able to sit down with a developer on a kickoff meeting will give them the confidence that even if the budget can not be achieved you can still make the positive economical/social/quality of life impact that a good building requires. Think repeat customers!