Building Owners, Property Managers and the USGBC
What is the USGBC and LEED certification, and why should you care?
USGBC stands for the United States Green Building Council. It’s a coalition of building industry leaders who came together in 1993 to promote environmentally responsible and profitable buildings that are also healthy places to live and work. The Council then developed the LEED certification program to provide guidelines and recognition for green buildings. LEED means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Green means good business.
If you don’t seek LEED certification for your buildings, you could soon face tough competition. Through September 2009, according to the USGBC, about 3,800 projects have received certification, with 8,900 more registered to become certified. Interest in LEED has grown exponentially since 2004. At the same time, more customers have become green savvy, and they expect businesses to show proof of environmental concern.
In order to become certified, a project must provide documentation showing that it meets certain requirements. The USGBC awards points accordingly. The number of points determines the LEED rating:
- Certified: 40-49
- Silver: 50-59
- Gold: 60-79
- Platinum: 80 & above
There are specific rating systems for different types of projects:
Piloted in 1998 and launched in 2002, LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations is designed for rating new and existing commercial and institutional buildings.
In 2004, the USGBC first introduced LEED certification for Existing Buildings, now LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System helps building owners and operators measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades. Beginning June 27, 2009, all projects registering for LEED for Existing Buildings must do so under the new LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance version.
Other LEED Programs
As LEED-NC and LEED-EB O&M became benchmarks for green buildings nationwide, the USGBC created other LEED certification systems for specific segments of the building industry. They include:
LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors): For the tenant improvement market, provides guidelines for sustainable choices among tenants and designers.
LEED-CS (Core & Shell): For designers, builders, developers and new building owners who wish to implement sustainable design for new core and shell construction.
LEED for Schools: Recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools. Based on the LEED for New Construction rating system, it addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment.
LEED for Retail: Recognizes the unique nature of the retail environment and addresses the different types of spaces that retailers need for their distinctive product lines.
LEED for Healthcare: Developed to meet the unique needs of the health care market, including inpatient care facilities, licensed outpatient care facilities, and licensed long term care facilities.
LEED for Homes: Promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.
LEED for Neighborhood Development: Integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.
The USGBC also developed LEED certification programs for specific buildings, such as schools, retail and healthcare. LEED is moving into the housing industry too: LEED programs for homes and neighborhoods are under development.
Learn more about the USGBC.
Benefits of LEED Certification
1. Becoming LEED certified is good business.
LEED certified buildings enjoy government incentives, marketing benefits and increased property values.
Going green also reduces costs to building management and tenants, including costs associated with sick leave, health care, productivity loss and litigation. In addition, energy and lifecycle costs savings for buildings with LEED certification are documented in USGBC case studies.
2. LEED buildings are healthier.
LEED standards create improved indoor air quality and reduce potential health problems, especially allergies and other sensitivities.
3. Healthier environments increase productivity.
Healthier employees mean happier employees. Statistics show increased worker satisfaction, improved morale, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity.
4. Green buildings help the earth.
Green programs can reduce the negative effect buildings and operations have on the environment: air and water pollution, ozone depletion and global climate change. Green practices conserve energy, promote recycling, reduce the use of raw materials and minimize the use of toxic products requiring disposal.
5. Going green increases the safety of the building and protects property values.
While the crux of going green is about reducing health risks — for humans and other living things — the process provides other benefits to the facility. Green procedures actually reduce the likelihood and frequency of fires, explosions, spills and splashes.
In addition, green cleaning calls for environmentally friendly and correctly diluted products and the right product for each job. This means, for example, that stains on carpets or upholstery are treated with the mildest, effective cleaner, thereby prolonging the life of expensive furnishings and reducing exposure to harsher chemicals.
Green Cleaning and LEED Certification
When it comes to greening your cleaning operations, LEED certification requires much more than just switching from traditional to green cleaning chemicals. According to the USGBC, LEED-EB O&M focuses on seven major areas, each with their own certification standards and best practices.
- Facility Cleaning & Maintenance, including Chemicals
- Indoor Air Quality
- Energy Efficiency
- Water Efficiency
- Recycling Programs
- Exterior Maintenance Programs
- Systems Upgrades
By implementing the our Green program, your building can earn up to 14 points toward LEED certification in the Existing Building: Operations & Maintenance category. A Peace of Mind Care can also help you with the stringent LEED documentation requirements.