Greening Your Building for LEED Certification

May 5, 2011

Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., recently hosted a webinar titled “Certifiably Green. LEED Solutions from Staples Advantage.” 
This webinar provided key strategies and tips to bring your building into the sustainable fold of LEED certification.   Below are some key takeaways from the event. 

Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., recently hosted a webinar titled “Certifiably Green. LEED Solutions from Staples Advantage.” 
This webinar provided key strategies and tips to bring your building into the sustainable fold of LEED certification.   Below are some key takeaways from the event. 

What is LEED?
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a relatively young non-governmental organization, started in the 1990s and has grown to more than 3,000 members today. The Council’s
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program started in 2000 and is now emerging as the global green buildings rating system in the U.S., Canada, Europe and throughout the globe. LEED certification provides third-party validation that a building was designed and built to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, resource conservation and indoor environmental quality. 

Applying these principles to buildings is important. Americans spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. In fact, buildings in the U.S.:

  • Consume 40% of primary energy
  • Consume more than 70% of all electricity
  • Consume more than 20% of potable water
  • Consume 5 billion pounds of cleaning chemicals
  • Consume 4.5 billion pounds of paper
  • Consume 36 billion trash can liners
  • Produce nearly 40% of all CO2 gas emissions
  • Produce more than 30% of waste output
  • Green buildings can reduce solid waste by 70%
  • Green buildings can reduce water use by 40%

It is clear that buildings have a huge impact on our environment and personal health. Building managers, designers and facility experts who pursue and gain LEED certification can make a big difference.

Requirements for LEED Certification

To LEED certify your building, a project accumulates points only after meeting specified category prerequisites; a minimum of 40 points are needed for certification, 50 points for silver, 60 points for gold and 80 points for platinum certification. LEED certifications span a variety of building types – new constructions and major renovations, existing buildings, commercial interiors, healthcare, schools, retail space, neighborhood development and even homes.

There are opportunities to acquire LEED credit points in the following categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, regional priority and innovation and design process.

For certification in all LEED categories, make sure to keep careful, written records of policies, processes and practices; keep progress reports detailing calculations, and track key criteria and metrics, verifiable purchases, percentages and milestones.

Start-up Costs
There are different fees associated with the certification process – which vary depending on the rating system for which you apply. There will also be the cost of time and dedication of a full- or part-time individual responsible for the certification project, which can last six months up to a year.

The size of the project is the determining factor in terms of the overall cost. Those looking at LEED certification must recognize that their initial investment is an incremental move toward a long-term plan and that these projects usually come with an aggressive return on investment. 

LEED in Furniture and Interior Design

When pursuing many of the LEED rating systems, furniture and interior design can play a role.  For example, furniture and design elements can support the following LEED credits:

·         Materials and resources – Use of recycled content (both pre- and post-consumer waste), rapidly renewable materials, and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood in furniture can help in obtaining materials and resources credits.

·         Energy and atmosphere – The use of energy-efficient lighting can help in accumulating points.

·         Indoor environmental quality – In commercial interiors, consider the following elements to accumulate points:

o    Low-emitting systems furniture and seating

o    Controllable individual lighting

o    Access to daylight and seated views

If starting a new building project, it is prudent to choose a building location with LEED in mind.  If renovating or updating, consider partnering with an expert design firm and contractor who can help advise you on the right steps toward achieving LEED certification.

LEED in Green Cleaning
The definition of green cleaning is to utilize cleaning products and practices that lower environmental impact and have a positive effect on indoor air quality. Some of the benefits of green cleaning include avoiding toxins, reducing waste and ensuring you are in compliance with LEED. For LEED certification, buildings can earn points in the following categories:

·         Materials and resources – Sustainable purchasing and solid waste management practices

·         Water efficiency – Use of indoor plumbing fixture and fitting efficiency

·         Indoor environmental quality – Indoor air quality, environmental tobacco smoke control, green cleaning initiatives

To get started with green cleaning, partner with suppliers who support your green initiatives and can help prevent overall waste associated with cleaning in your building.  Replace cleaning products not in compliance, and use concentrated solutions instead of ready-to-use products.  

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