Going green is on everyone’s mind, and for the first time it’s a desire catered to by the construction industry. In fact, most leading companies and contractors within real estate and construction now aspire to LEED certification to advertise to the world that they’re in the business of limiting environmental impact.
LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification is the global favorite out of all green building rating systems. Developed by the USGBC—US Green Building Council—LEED is a central part of the non-profit organization which was created to encourage design professionals, architects and construction companies to be more aware and considerate of the environmental impact of the projects with which they work.
The goal of the organization is to have a set of standards that constitute a building being classified as “green.” Otherwise, any business or individual could simply call their building green without any modifications to truly make it so. LEED certification means that the building has met some very specific standards in being environmentally friendly.
Almost 80,000 construction projects—32,500 of which are commercial—are LEED participants across over 150 countries. The program works by denoting how green a building is from its inception and during its lifespan.
This includes rating its energy and water conservation, and the sustainability of materials used. And not just offices or homes can achieve LEED certification, in fact, different rating systems exist for homes, commercial buildings, interior renovations, schools, residential and community developments and many others.
Conservatories, hospitals, doghouses and animal hospitals have gained LEED certification. You might surprise yourself to find out even animal shelters have taken their prized place in the LEED hall of certification.
What are the benefits of LEED certification?
The LEED certification process enlists a point system which assesses the environmental values of a building and then places it in one of four brackets depending on how many points or credits it has tallied.
A building could be placed in ‘certified’—40-49 credits, ‘silver’—50-59 credits, ‘gold’—60-79 credits or ‘platinum’—80 or more credits.
LEED focuses on eight main areas during the assessment:
- Regional Priority
- Design Innovation
- Education and Awareness
- Sustainable Sites
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
Regardless of the public kudos LEED certified buildings receive, buildings with a LEED certification gain serious advantages.
According to the USGBC, LEED buildings more than likely qualify for a variety of incentives including tax rebates and zoning permits. They have quicker lease-up rates and maintain higher value themselves, and residential homes, in particular, sell faster at an increased price.
If you were to build your residential property you could claim a $2,000-dollar tax credit. And not to mention, the benefit of potentially saving money each year courtesy of your energy efficient LEED-certified home.
LEED properties will reduce your energy and water consumption through mechanisms such as low-flow toilets and faucets, using HDPE partitions and many others.
As a construction firm deciding to build LEED projects will help you become recession proof—while there is the deflating real-estate bubble, there has been a 14 percent increase in the square footage of LEED certified properties.
LEED buildings are more attractive to buyers, and facility owners are also attracted to the energy savings as well as the better indoor environment they create for end-user clients such as staff and guests.
How LEED certification and rankings got started?
The trend of new technology and improvements to building efficiency started the green building trend. For designers, developers, architects and construction engineers to work better, there was a real need for better understanding of what a green building actually is.
Because LEED is a standard in green building, more and more businesses look for this certification when purchasing new real estate. To gain LEED certification, every aspect of the building is looked at, including the materials used in construction.
Some of the elements looked at when deciding on LEED ranking include:
- Erosion and sedimentation control: Is there alternative transportation available and a place for bike storage? How is storm water managed? How is the roof set up? Ideally, the roof should help prevent heat loss as much as possible.
- Water efficiency: Is the landscaping made to reduce water usage? Are there any cutting-edge wastewater technologies used? Is there an attempt to reduce water usage? To obtain LEED certification, the building must reduce water usage.
- Energy and atmosphere: What is the energy performance of different systems in the building? What is the impact on ozone depletion? Is renewable energy used — solar, etc.? How does the overall building impact the environment and neighborhood around it?
- Materials and resources: Are materials manufactured locally? Are materials used that are rapidly renewable, such as bamboo? Is the lumber used certified? LEED has cracked down recently on the type of lumber used in buildings.
- Indoor environmental quality: Is carbon dioxide monitored? Are paints, carpets and other materials low-emitting? How much natural lighting is used?
- Innovation and design process: Is an LEED-accredited person on the project offering assistance and advice? How innovative is the design from a green perspective? For example, copper fasteners are an eco-friendly solution for your roof.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into figuring out if a building should be LEED accredited. The process is not an easy one, but it is worth it.
How to become LEED certified?
To become LEED certified you should become more aware of the main tenets of a sustainable building including building smaller, using solar/biogas or geothermal energy, opt for sustainable materials such as straw and aluminum, enlist water conservation techniques and choose energy star windows. Programmable thermostats are also a major win these days in the eyes of LEED assessors.
So, how do you become LEED certified? There is typically a five step process.
- Be aware of deadlines! LEED rating systems can frequently change so educate yourself on the schedule
- Make sure to register! There is a flat fee for registration.
- Distinguish between the credits you want and don’t want to achieve based on the categories included in the list above.
- Your application will be reviewed.
- You will receive the LEED Institute’s decision, and you can accept or appeal it.
There are many benefits of having the LEED certification whether you are a building contractor, a company renting office space or you are building your own home.
The advantages range from health to finances, to attracting a wider more promising client base. The process is simpler than most and extremely accessible to all types of applicants—including dog shelter owners—and the merits granted by the certification are more than meet the eye.
How LEED certification helps the environment?
There are many reasons for your business to go green. One of them is that green buildings tend to be more attractive to tenants. They also have a lease rate up to 20% higher than average. Businesses that go green improve their image and outperform the competition. Many consumers look for businesses that are green when deciding who to do business with.
LEED ranking factors help the environment by encouraging businesses to look at all aspects of the impact the building has on the eco-system around that building. Not only does LEED certification looks at the actual building and how green it is, but at the building process itself and the impact on the environment, local flora and fauna, and even how the indoor environmental quality will impact those who eventually work in that building.
LEED certification proves that a building is green. It holds you accountable to make sure you are doing absolutely everything you can to keep your business eco-friendly.
This is a guest post written by Megan Ray Nichols.
Megan Ray Nichols is a science writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. She enjoys discussing scientific discoveries and exploring the world around her. Follow her on twitter @nicholsrmegan