Sustainability is finally coming full circle. Many of the strategies being used to design and operate green buildings these days have actually been used for a long time, but are just now coming back into vogue.
Think back to a time when energy was expensive and not readily available. Transportation was costly. It was more cost-effective to use local or regional materials. Sites retained rainwater for consumption; sewage and silage were treated on site. Buildings had natural ventilation and provided a substantial number of air changes resulting in high indoor air quality.
As energy became abundant, readily available and inexpensive, the need to be sustainable diminished, and the old norm lost its importance. Economics changed, as developers took the stage and played a very important role in planning buildings to accommodate post-World War II population growth. Federal, state and local governments formulated policies that accommodated market forces and development economics rather than sustainability.
Now, the renewed emphasis on sustainability has reached a universal level, and more and more people understand how buildings affect the environment.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has provided a framework to guide facility executives through sustainable projects. LEED has helped promote awareness for green design, operations and maintenance strategies. Few would dispute that LEED has improved the general attitude toward green building and how buildings affect the natural world.
Especially in these difficult economic times, where facility and design budgets are being squeezed, formal LEED certification may be an expense that is tough to justify. But that doesn’t mean facility executives should totally disregard LEED. The important thing to remember on any type of facility-related project is the consequences to the environment — and these can certainly be accounted for in LEED, even if plans for a formal certification are several years down the road. Each section of LEED provides a guide targeted at a particular area of sustainability. Understanding each category is important to understanding how LEED can be used as a guide to holistic green.
With the release of LEED v3 this April, the U.S. Green Building Council completed a sizable overhaul to its entire roster of LEED rating systems. Much has changed in the new LEED, from individual credit requirements to how much each credit is worth. Here is a list of some of the major changes facility executives should be aware of.
— Greg Zimmerman, executive editor
LEED v3: How it has Changed
LEED Sustainable Sites Tips
LEED Water Efficiency Tips
LEED Energy and Atmosphere Tips
LEED Materials and Resources Tips
LEED Indoor Environmental Quality Tips
LEED Innovation Strategies