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“LEED”ing Green Design

When the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) rolled out their new green building certification system in March of 2000, few anticipated that LEED®, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, would turn into the design focus that it has.  It seems in a nanosecond everyone was offering “LEED” products and promising that by using them, you would achieve that ever coveted LEED certification.

But what is so “LEED” about it?  Isn’t it green design not “LEED” design we are all after?

After becoming a LEED AP in 2008 and beginning to work on LEED projects in our office, I quickly realized that there is a lot to green design that is inherently good design.  At MKSD, we strive to create sound architectural solutions for our clients that include at a minimum: recycled products, day lighting of interior spaces, controllability of HVAC systems, reuse of building components or systems, and reduced energy use.  So what is the benefit of a “LEED” building? And why should we bother with the added costs, time, and money associated with the design and documentation?

It really isn’t the use of “LEED” products that creates a “LEED” building.  Green products and materials are such a small component of what the benefits are to LEED certification.  After documenting my first major LEED project, I have found that there are certain credits within the LEED rating system that go above our normal “green” design approach and provide not only a “greener” solution, but can provide our client with great benefit in ways that aren’t always obvious, in some instances even operational or construction cost savings.

These credits include the following LEED credits which are part of the LEED for New Construction rating system:

Sustainable Sites Credits:
Alternative Transportation: Public Transportation Access(SSc4.1)
Light Pollution Reduction (SSc8)

Energy & Atmosphere Credits: 
Fundamental Commissioning of Building Systems (EAp1)                                                          Optimize Energy Performance (EAc1)

Materials & Resources Credits:
Building Reuse (MRc1.1)
Construction Waste Management (MRc2)
Regional Materials (MRc5)

Indoor Environmental Quality: 
Controllability of Systems- Lighting (IEQc6.1)
Controllability of Systems- Thermal Comfort (IEQ6.2)
Daylight and Views- Daylight (IEQ8.1)
Daylight and Views- Views (IEQ8.2)

Some of these credits may produce reduced construction costs, others may provide a more enjoyable working environment for employees, and a few may even promote growth in your local economy!   In future blogs in this series, I will take a look at some of these credits and how specifically our clients can benefit from the approach to the credit.  So stay tuned for future installments in the “LEED”ing Green Design blog series!