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LEED Volume Delivers High-Performance on a Large Scale

Today's tip of the day is about how retailers are using the LEED Volume system to deliver high-performance buildings on a large scale.

McDonald's likely wouldn't be the first company on most folks' minds in a discussion about high-performance facilities, sustainability, or corporate responsibility. Indeed, a fair amount of bad press in recent years, and a failure to connect with millennials, has sent McDonald's sales spiraling downward.

But let's give a bit of credit where credit is due - McDonald's is in the midst of building as many as 25 new LEED certified restaurants between 2013 and 2016. A recently certified store in Cary, N.C., even includes EV charging station and solar canopies in the parking lot - not features you’d expect to see normally under the golden arches.

The restaurants will be certified through the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Volume system. And LEED Volume is, in many experts' minds, one of the wiser strategic moves USGBC has made in the last several years (it was released in 2010). The idea is that a company — ideally retail organizations, like Kohl's, PNC Bank, or Nike, all users of LEED Volume — can submit a prototype design, use that design for all its retail facilities, and be "precertified" at each one. USGBC then periodically audits particular facilities to ensure sustainability goals are being met and the rigor of the LEED system is maintained.

This system removes a mountain of administrative work, while still encouraging companies to build and operate sustainably. It's a great way to help move the market because it encourages high-performance on a vast scale that wouldn't be possible with one-off certifications. LEED Volume can apply to any of the LEED rating systems, but it's primary use has been with Building Design + Construction (BD+C) and Building Operations + Maintenance (O+M).

Skeptics have said that it might allow companies to cheat a bit on certification, but if companies really were intent on cheating, why would they sign up and pay the LEED fees in the first place? Most would say there definitely is some quantifiable marketing benefit to LEED, but perhaps that doesn’t extend quite as strongly to the retail sector, where the "occupants" are the general public. Indeed, the real benefit for LEED in these situations is the cost savings perpetuated by using fewer resources. So, is it possible to cheat? Sure, though the company could still be caught in an audit. But in reality, it's probably not an issue, because cheaters would be only be cheating themselves.


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