Whenever there is a discussion about green design in commercial buildings, the U.S. Green Building Council and its programs are mentioned. Here’s the skinny on the organization and its standard, which is changing the building industry:
Who makes up the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)?
Council membership represents nearly 3,000 leading organizations, including building owners; architectural, interior design, and engineering firms; product manufacturers; contractors and builders; environmental groups; professional societies; developers; financial and insurance firms; utilities; universities and technical research institutes; building control service contractors and manufacturers; and federal, state, and local government agencies.
What are they getting out of this?
The USGBC’s mission is to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to work. Council members collaborate to develop Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) products and resources, policy guidance, and educational and marketing tools that support the adoption of sustainable building design.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a leading-edge system for designing, constructing, and certifying green buildings. The full program offers training workshops, professional accreditation, resource support, and third-party certification of building performance. LEED 2.0 was launched in March 2000 following review by the entire USGBC membership and a national pilot testing program. LEED 2.0 is designed for rating new and existing commercial buildings; however, active member committees are developing criteria addressing new project types. The USGBC website offers a free download of the detailed checklist for LEED 2.0 and LEED 2.1 for new construction and major modernization projects. The site also provides a free summary and pilot versions of the LEED standard of building operations for existing buildings (LEED-EB) and commercial interiors (LEED-CI).
Does LEED cover inside the facility?
The LEED Green Building Rating System for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) addresses performance areas, including: selection of sustainable tenant space; efficiency of water usage; energy performance optimization, including lighting; resource utilization for interior building systems and furnishings; and indoor environmental quality, including comprehensive emissions criteria. LEED-CI was designed to complement the LEED for Core & Shell (LEED-CS) Rating System currently under development by USGBC member committees. Together, LEED-CI and LEED-CS will establish green building criteria for commercial office real estate for use by developers, designers, and tenants. The pilot program for LEED-CI runs through October 2003.
How does this work?
The first step toward earning LEED Certification is project registration. Registering during the early phases of project design will ensure maximum potential for achieving certification. Registration also establishes contact with the USGBC and provides access to essential information, software tools, and communications. LEED Certification distinguishes building projects that have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability by meeting the highest performance standards. The organization outlines the required steps of the application process and it reviews building project applications.
Who is eligible?
Commercial buildings, such as offices, retail facilities, institutional buildings, libraries, schools, museums, churches, hotels, and multi-family buildings of four or more habitable stories are eligible.
Why should I bother?
The USGBC offers these advantages (and more) to adopting green design under their auspices:
Validate achievement through a third-party review process.
Qualify for a wide array of state and local government incentives.
Contribute to the growing green building knowledge base.
Receive marketing exposure through the USGBC website, case studies, and media announcements.
But the biggest advantage is saving the planet one building at a time. The USGBC website (www.usgbc.org) offers much more detailed information on the benefits of green design.
Odell on LEED
Taking the proverbial “feet first” jump into the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is the easiest way for building professionals to get involved in sustainable design and good environmental stewardship.
Bill Odell can’t reiterate this point enough.
Odell, sustainable design principal at HOK’s St. Louis headquarters and co-author of The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design, one of the industry’s sustainability “Bibles,” says he finds that many of his clients want to shy away from LEED, fearing that it isn’t user-friendly.
Odell, who helped write a portion of the LEED system, is the first to admit the system appears a bit daunting to newcomers. But, he says, it’s the “best thing that’s out there.
“It is the one sure way you can compare one project to another and measure your own progress.”
Simply put, LEED gives facility design and management teams a benchmark from which to base their sustainable building plans, giving them a touch point to compare product specifications and other environmentally friendly decisions.
Odell recalls a scenario in which he met with a provost of a university who proudly showed him literature about the school’s newest “green” building. In presenting the literature, she noted that the university constructed the project without using LEED. In fact, she said, it was better than LEED.
“I said, ‘Let’s evaluate it right now in terms of LEED,’” Odell recalls. “This ‘very green’ building in her mind got maybe 11 points based on LEED. She was a little devastated.”
The best advice Odell says he can give to building professionals is to not be intimidated by the LEED system.
“LEED is so easy from the process point of view. But you have to think through the issues, and that’s a new way of thinking,” he says, adding that you don’t have to meet every point on the checklist.
“There are so many products out there and so much of it is just smart design,” he says. “Think beyond the short term and look to the future of your building. It makes a heck of a lot of sense.”