Feature Article - September 2007
Find a printable version here

Eco-Nomically Green

A Little Green Goes a Long Way

By Dana Carman

LEED the Way

Simply saying you want to build a green facility and actually doing it are two different things. Each decision made during planning, design and construction needs to be considered in the context of the impact it will have on overall sustainability.

To assist in this regard, the USGBC created a standard for environmental design. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification provides third-party, independent verification that the building meets the requirements to be considered an environmentally responsible building. Having the LEED certification eliminates what's known as "green washing" or claiming your building is green without independent verification.

Projects seeking LEED certification are awarded credits based on six categories of performance:

1. Sustainable Sites
2. Energy and Atmosphere
3. Water Efficiency
4. Indoor Environmental Quality
5. Materials and Resources
6. Innovation in Design

In each of these categories the project receives points, and the number of points determines the level of certification received. Out of 69 total possible points, a project needs 26 to become certified. Additional points can increase the level of certification to Silver, Gold or Platinum.

In some cities and states, LEED certification for certain types of facilities isn't voluntary. For example, Washington, D.C.'s Green Building Act of 2006 requires LEED compliance for some private and public buildings. Similarly, New York City passed a green building law that requires LEED compliance for municipal buildings.

Before you get started on your new facility, check the USGBC's Web site (www.usgbc.org) to find out if there are any such requirements for your building. Additionally, some areas may provide incentives for LEED certification. You also may be able to find grants through various private, state and federal sources that will help fund your project if you include many of the design elements that also contribute to LEED certification.

The USGBC offers LEED workshops and many architects have LEED experience through past projects, so if you're seeking to build a LEED-certified project, educate yourself and seek out professionals who have the necessary experience.

If for whatever reason—geography, costs, feasibility—your building cannot achieve LEED certification, you should still consider building as green as you can. In the end, literally, it's about the sustainability, not the recognition.