Meidh Corp. says it has "punched a hole in the myth" that obtaining a top sustainability rating for commercial buildings is expensive.

The Des Moines company helped Principal Real Estate Investors obtain the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum rating for 600,000-square-foot high-rise in downtown Los Angeles. The cost, including Meidh's fees and other expenses, was 16 cents per square foot.

"This project pays ownership back in 11/2 years," Meidh CEO Chris Draper said.

For existing buildings, many of the improvements are on the operational side. Draper said that less than 8 percent of the cost of obtaining LEED certification for existing buildings is tied up in capital improvements.

That message hasn't taken hold in Greater Des Moines, he said.

"Des Moines is a hard market for sustainability," Draper said.

Not that it is lacking in older properties that could use judicious monitoring of water, energy and paper usage, all examples of the elements involved in achieving LEED sustainability certification, Draper said.

"I think there is a wide misunderstanding of the process," he said. "Just make sure your building is getting better. If we got that message out, it would be very favorable to Iowa."

The Los Angeles property, called 550 South Hope, gained a 21 percent reduction in operating costs for a $100,000 investment, Draper said.

"A lot of buildings in Des Moines don't need major work," he said. However, he perceives a preference for building bold new structures rather than focusing on improving existing buildings.