09 Sep Tips for mastering the LEED construction process
There’s no denying American consumers have become increasingly cognizant of the impact their purchases have on the environment. As a result, they’ve begun expecting a certain
sustainability-related consciousness among the brands they patronize. Along similar lines, businesses committed to environmentally beneficial corporate responsibility principles often extend that philosophy to their use of resources, manifested in, among other things, a preference to buy or rent sustainably constructed and outfitted real estate.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rubric represents the most visible standard for green building, known all over the world. Mastering the LEED commercial construction process for your next real estate project can benefit your organization’s long-term bottom line by boosting energy efficiency and attracting clients away from less sustainability-focused firms.
A brief history and summary of LEED
USGBC has been promoting the LEED system since 2000, just seven years after the organization’s founding. The distinction is awarded to residential and commercial properties that meet certain sustainability and energy-efficiency benchmarks.
A baseline “certified” designation goes to structures that meet the basic LEED credit requirements, while silver, gold and platinum are reserved for those going above and beyond the norm to varying degrees. (We’ll delve into the particulars therein momentarily.)
Currently, the USGBC website states that between 2.2 and 2.4 million square feet of property become LEED-certified each day, across more than 90,000 distinct projects in about 165 countries.
As a property owner, you understand full well the importance of planning and attention to detail. This principle becomes particularly urgent when looking to oversee a successful LEED commercial project. The language of LEED requirements can at first seem like dense thickets of jargon. While you’ll certainly get used to it after a while, it’s especially important not to confuse aspects of planning that count as prerequisites with those counting as credits.
Prerequisites are conditions that must be met before your proposed building can even apply for LEED certification.
- For example, in the Building Development & Construction category, you’re required to have an erosion and sedimentation control plan in place to reduce construction related pollution.
- You must also ensure the project meets minimum energy performance standards
(specifically, ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2016 for lighting, HVAC, power, service water heating and building envelope).
- Other prerequisites include outdoor and indoor water-use reduction plans, building-level meters for electricity and water use, air quality standards, tobacco smoke control and recycling policies.
According to Buildings magazine, it’s critical to pay the appropriate level of attention to prerequisites, as it’s not uncommon for teams to let them fall by the wayside in favor of optional or less important credits.
The varying value of credits
Credits, meanwhile, are awarded for planned or already-implemented sustainability measures requiring real commitment (and compliance) on the part of you and your builders. Every credit awards a certain number of points – sometimes a fixed sum, other times on a sliding scale.
- You receive one LEED point by meeting the guidelines of the pre-design site assessment credit, which takes factors like topography, hydrology, climate, human health effects and others into account.
- Contrastingly, the “Optimize Energy Performance” credit can net you up to 18 points; one for every 5% of your Performance Cost Index below the PCI Target for energy costs and greenhouse-gas emissions. Calculate this using the aforementioned Standard 90.1-2016.
In a nutshell, you’ll want to frequently consult the LEED credit library to understand what measures you want to enact to reach the system’s base certification level or to hit one of the higher echelons.
Choosing the right LEED tier
Per the USGBC, the four levels of LEED are delineated by a range of points earned:
- Certified: 40-49 points
- Silver: 50-59 points
- Gold: 60-79 points
- Platinum: 80 points and beyond
Be practical when determining what LEED tier you want your project to reach. Ideally it would be great to reach Gold or Platinum, but that simply might not be in your budget, and at this point it’s been conclusively shown that any LEED property can benefit local sustainability efforts in a substantive way. So make the LEED commitment you know you’ll be able to make â€” and, perhaps even more importantly, that you’ll be able to sustain: LEED certification isn’t permanent; you’re allowed to apply for re-certification every three years.
Additionally, some areas of LEED are easier to master than others. For example, Buildings magazine recommended simply using reflective material or light-colored paint on a roof, instead of blacktop, to diminish heat absorption and cut down on HVAC costs. Specifics will vary by project, but there are always ways to make construction more efficient, and many won’t be too hard on your budget.
Mastering LEED with Scheer Partners’ expert management
Construction management counsel from the industry veterans at Scheer Partners is just what you need to help navigate the complexities of LEED. Whether building a small testing facility or hoping to create an ambitious office complex that meets the Platinum threshold, we’ll be there to aid your efforts on a granular, day-to-day basis, from design and breaking ground to completion.