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LEED-ing you to a Greener Future. It’s Green Friday!

Building and home efficiency is a key advertising feature when courting realtors, buyers, and renters. However, without standardization of what qualifies as ‘green’, it may be difficult to ascertain what buildings are truly built with green intentions. In developing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system, the US Green Building Council set standards to identify those pushing the efficiency envelope. LEED sets building standards, such that new construction and renovations may be awarded for their energy conservation and optimization through various ‘green’ credentials. In today’s Green Friday post, we will explore what makes a LEED-certified building, what incentivizes builders and owners to pursue LEED certifications, and how LEED-certified buildings can positively affect your community.

Since 1998 LEED standards have guided global construction and building design, evolving over the years to oversee 5 categories of development: new construction, core and shell (basic bones of a building before final development of the interior), school building, retail (including renovations), and healthcare building construction. Additional categories covering interior design, operations and maintenance, neighborhood development, and home design (integration of which varies on the kind of structure being built) feed into the final calculation of a project’s LEED certification level.

Ranging from ‘LEED Certified’ through Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels, buildings and homes earn points based on metrics such as their water efficiency, energy use and effect on air quality, use of renewable and sustainable materials in construction and design, interior environmental quality (think air quality and use of non-toxic resources), and impact on the surrounding location during and after construction. As such, these buildings not only promote having a smaller environmental footprint, some even boasting carbon-neutral statuses, but significantly reduce long-term operating costs. However, it is important to consider that though the long-term energy use forecast for a building is critical for its attraction to users, construction to such standards can come at a premium to builders.

To offset the increased total project cost of new construction and major renovations abiding by stricter environmental quality guidelines, there exist incentives in the form of rebates and tax exemptions on the use of sustainable and low-energy materials. This helps ensure that projects can still meet their financial obligations while paying forward cost savings. Further, for companies contracting LEED-certified projects, those meeting LEED benchmarks for construction can obtain certifications in the form of the LEED Professional Credential. Such accreditations aid companies in marketing themselves as living up to the highest standards of green building technologies and having the most current knowledge for leading sustainable structure construction and building renovation.

For consumers, the benefits of being in a more efficient place in which to conduct business and live shines through by reducing their own energy and water bills. However, due to interior environment quality factoring into LEED certifications, LEED-certified buildings also promise to promote and sustain a healthier interior environment, positively impacting worker and resident health in the long-term. Further, due to the point system considering access to transportation and open spaces, those looking to move into or work in LEED buildings can also enjoy more travel options and outdoor recreation/green spaces integrated into or directly adjacent to structures. LEED buildings also tend to have higher resale values and faster leasing rates than comparable non-LEED structures, passing additional financial benefits to consumers.

Though this edition of Green Friday was only a quick overview of the LEED certification system, there is much more to read on this topic. To find out more about LEED, its history, and evolution jump through to the US Green Building Council’s site by clicking this link. For more ways to Live Green in SD and information about sustainability initiatives, make sure to check-in weekly!

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