LEED The Charge

With all the talk about being “green,” it can be confusing trying to figure out exactly what that word really means. A “green” secret-decoder ring will definitely come in handy when attempting to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the “greenness” of buildings, including new and remodeled construction.

Luckily, there is an easier method. One internationally accepted way is through Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a third-party validation from the United States Green Building Council (USBGC). The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.

Participation in becoming LEED-certified is completely voluntary. The system is designed on a 100-point scale, which includes categories such as sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, as well as indoor environmental quality. Points in each category are adjusted to scale with their environmental impact. The scope of the project–whether it is new construction or a renovation, commercial or retail, etc.–determines the criteria used for the review process. LEED-certification levels are Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Green In Your Pocket

According to USGBC statistics, buildings in the United States are responsible for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emitted, 40 percent of energy consumed, 13 percent of water consumed, and 15 percent of the gross domestic product per year. By improving building energy and water efficiencies, building owners have the potential for significant long-term savings on operational and mechanical costs.

Bottom Of Form

“Becoming LEED-certified shows–in a measureable way–your commitment to the environment as well as to providing a high-quality building for the community,” says Chuck Lohre, president of Lohre & Associates, a Cincinnati-based marketing and communications consultancy serving engineers, architects and the building and materials trades. “LEED certification is popular with institutions and municipalities as they traditionally build a building to last. LEED is very appropriate to show your commitment to utilizing the taxpayers’ money the best way possible, and your commitment to the environment by having a building that has a small carbon footprint during and after construction.”

Before Jumping In

First, determine why you want the building LEED-certified. In the design and programming phase of the project, balance your desires with the available budget.

“There are a series of items that are required to meet a certain level of points in the LEED-certification system. Take a close look at your ideas and develop a list of achievable goals to meet the level of LEED certification you want to reach,” says Bill Wilson, president of KZF Design, an architectural and engineering firm. “The complexity of your goals has to be balanced with the funds available and the life-cycle costs for the building.”

“There are several components to consider when seeking LEED certification,” says Boyd Johnson, project designer and LEED-accredited professional with KZF. “The most important component is open communications between the client, designer, architects, landscape architect, engineers and contractor throughout the lifespan of the project. The key is integrated communication because a seemingly innocuous decision at the very beginning of the project might have a huge impact later when seeking LEED certification.”

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