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Innovation Center: Building Cost

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* All building cost data is preliminary, and will be updated after RMI completes building commissioning

The cost of the Innovation Center is on par with other national, leading-edge, net-zero energy, Living Building Challenge buildings (such as the Packard Foundation, or the Brock Environmental Center) at $569/SF for core & shell, and tenant fit-out despite being located in the coldest climate zone in the country.

In our case, the incremental cost associated with achieving net-zero energy for the Innovation Center, which was designed specifically for our use and for a life of over 100 years, was 10.8% and will deliver a simple payback in just under 4 years. This includes the total site, design, construction and furniture, fixture & equipment costs. Because we are a 'first mover', the cost premium we experienced can be considered temporary and will be eroded by market forces as scaling occurs. This will provide an even more compelling payback to those that choose to go down a similar path.

The bottom line: to bring a LEED silver baseline up to net zero energy requires a cost premium of less than 15% when factoring in the design, core & shell and tenant fit-out costs.


RMI has assessed that there was a $121/SF construction cost premium over a baseline LEED Silver office building built in this specific location. There are 2 reasons for this premium:

  1. In order to achieve a world-class convening and collaboration center with a design life in excess of 100 years we spent $67/SF more on interior and exterior features and finishes.
  2. In order to achieve net-zero energy performance we spent $54/sf more on insulation, thermal comfort, air tightness, electrical specialties and passive measures. This figure includes savings of $9/SF on HVAC equipment since we have no mechanical cooling system and a small distributed heating system and an additional $7/SF savings from the increased functional square footage that resulted from the reduced size of our mechanical room.


Our design costs (including architects, architectural consultants and preconstruction fees) totaled $171/SF and we have assessed that there was a $32/SF design cost premium over a baseline LEED Silver office building due to our course being largely uncharted. We used a number of relatively new technologies and approaches necessitating a highly collaborative design process. We used a new method of contracting (Integrated Project Delivery) and engaged with several specialty consultants to achieve the targeted level of performance. We anticipate this design premium quickly dropping to negligible levels as these technologies and processes become more commonplace.


Our net zero energy building delivers significantly more long-term value than a typical building. Annual energy use is 74% less than a typical building in this climate zone, and the remaining energy use is offset entirely with onsite PV, which is funded through a PPA. Increased productivity, reduced energy costs and reduced maintenance costs contribute >$2.3 M (on a net present value basis) over a 10 year period.


Mounting research points to the numerous, and arguably more valuable elements of net-zero energy buildings beyond energy cost savings such as improved health and worker productivity and satisfaction. Learn more.


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