Flooring in the LEED

June 1, 2007

Can flooring contribute to LEED certification? Yes

To help separate fact from fiction regarding green flooring materials and methods, Darien, CT-based StarNet Independent Flooring Cooperative offers the following most-asked questions that facility managers, designers, and specifiers have about how flooring can contribute to LEED points and play a role in environmentally responsible projects.

Q: Can flooring contribute to LEED certification?
A: Only buildings (not floors) can be LEED certified. But, flooring can contribute to earning LEED credits. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to provide a national standard for green building design. The rating system is based on achieving a certain number of points, which are allocated for design choices defined within the standard. The points are accrued within specific credits. Flooring products and installation materials can contribute to earning points in three of the six LEED categories and in a number of credit areas (see the LEED Categories and Credits that Apply to Flooring chart below).

Q: What LEED programs are impacted the most by commercial flooring?
A: LEED-NC (New Construction and Major Renovations) and LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors). LEED-NC and LEED-CI are two programs (of four total) where flooring can play a role in earning LEED points. LEED-NC performance criteria apply to commercial and institutional buildings that are either new or undergoing major renovations. LEED-CI is a newer program designed to address the specifics of tenant spaces primarily in office and institutional buildings. LEED-NC version 2.2 includes updates to recycled content, new requirements on what constitutes regional materials, and an enhanced standard on low-emitting materials/carpet systems.

Q: Does it cost more to specify flooring that contributes to LEED certification?
A: Not necessarily. Building green can pay off in reducing the environmental impact that a building has on its surroundings and on the bottom line. If you look at just the first-cost figures, it can cost approximately 2-percent more to construct a LEED-certified building. But, that cost can be recovered through faster lease-up rates, rental premiums, and increased market valuation.

Q: How can I justify the cost of green flooring for my project if the initial cost is higher?
A: Use Life-Cycle Costing (LCC) methodology to evaluate the economic performance of investments in building materials. LCC is a tool to assist the user in accurately identifying and understanding true financial costs vs. the purchase price. For green projects, that translates to specifying for long life-cycle rather than specifying for first costs. LCC analysis methods are becoming more standardized, and tools are emerging from manufacturers and organizations to provide comparable product evaluations.

This column was excerpted from StarLog, a floorcovering bulletin from the Darien, CT-based StarNet Independent Flooring Cooperative (http://www.starnetflooring.com/).

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