LEED certification

Business owners are hearing more about
LEED certification, but they may not
know of its significance. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED),
which was launched in 1998, is a building rating system and a nationally accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation
of green buildings. These standards will
some day be the rule, rather than the exception, in commercial development.

“There is the potential of a marginally higher initial cost, but the long-term cost efficiencies are definitely there,” says Ellen Hanson,
a LEED Accredited Professional and marketing director at CresaPartners. Hanson sites as
an example Exelon Corporation, one of the
largest electrical utility companies in the U.S.
that recently renovated its 220,000-square-foot Chicago office headquarters to be LEED
certified at the platinum level. The company’s
stated goal was to increase productivity
while reducing long-term occupancy costs.
The renovation, which was in an existing
building, resulted in a reduction of electrical
consumption by more than 43 percent and
water consumption by 30 percent compared
to its previous space.

Smart Business spoke to Hanson about
how tenants can join the green movement.

What is LEED certification?

LEED certification provides independent,
third-party verification that tenant-leased
spaces and base building projects meet the
highest green building and performance
measures. The United States Green Building
Council (USGBC, www.usgbc.com) has established four categories for LEED ratings:
(1) new construction and renovation, (2)
core and shell, (3) commercial interiors, (4)
existing building.

There are four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum, which are
based upon a point system. In order to be
considered, a project must meet all the prerequisites for every area of concentration in a
LEED project. Examples of the prerequisites
include minimum energy performance, minimum indoor air quality, performance factors
and environmental tobacco smoke control.

The LEED approach recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: (1) sustainable site development — where it’s located, proximity to public transportation, etc., (2) water savings, (3)
energy efficiency, (4) material selection
(resource reuse and recycled content) and
(5) indoor environmental quality. How well a
building performs in these areas dictates the
number of points received.

Why should business owners consider this
type of construction/renovation?

Corporations are identifying with the environmental, economic and social elements of
green design. The benefits can include
reduced operating costs, increased worker
productivity and minimized environmental
impact. It is reported that energy costs savings of 20 to 50 percent are common through
energy-saving technologies, natural daylight,
ventilation and downsized equipment.

Major corporations recognize the corporate value of environmentally responsible
business practices. How companies manage
issues related to energy and the environment
can have a significant effect on the success of
their business. Whether you are a tenant
occupying 20,000 square feet or more than
200,000 square feet, you can benefit from a
high-performance office design.

There are studies that show an increase in
recruitment and retention of people who
work for companies that apply green practices in the workplace. It’s a healthier, more
satisfying environment and, with good
indoor air quality, people are sick less.
Natural light plays an important role in the
interior environment, as well. Studies show it
can offset the use of electricity, provide a
higher quality of light than artificial lighting
and lead to a more productive workplace.

Are there extra costs involved?

Yes, but the cost differential, as compared
to ‘conventional’ construction, keeps getting
lower. In many cases, any additional first
costs are recouped within five years through
energy cost savings. As of 2006, it cost 2 to 5
percent more to develop a sustainable building or office because the process has been
streamlined. Green technology has evolved
tremendously over the past decade. Now,
energy-efficient and resource-efficient solutions aren’t necessarily more costly and are
part of mainstream product offerings.

What is the future of green building?

Many state and city government agencies
are mandating that new government building
projects have at least minimum certification.
In July, 2005, the Pennsylvania legislature
passed a bill providing financial incentives to
public school districts that achieve LEED silver certification. There are now four state
funds, including a $20 million sustainable
energy fund, to provide grants, loans and
equity investment in energy efficiency and
renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania.
In April, 2007, the City of Philadelphia adopted the Local Climate Action Plan, which
requires all new municipal construction and
major renovation projects over 10,000 square
feet to achieve LEED silver certification.

Also, the City of Chicago has recently developed an expedited permit process for projects incorporating innovative green building
strategies, including LEED certification.

Although tax incentives are primarily with
government agencies, it is increasingly likely
that tax incentives will soon be made available for private companies.

ELLEN HANSON, LEED Accredited Professional, is the marketing director with CresaPartners in Chicago. Reach her at (312)
376-4100 or [email protected].