Nationwide, corporations are looking for ways to cut down on their carbon footprint, even when their business does not have an obvious connection to the environment. Because of the goodwill it provides, there has been a big jump in demand in the construction industry for environmentally-conscious strategies.
While there are many standards for what makes a building environmentally-conscious, LEED certification is one of the most widely accepted standards of green building certifications.
If you haven’t heard of LEED certification before, it represents recognition from the US Green Building Certification (USBGC) Institute, which designates credits for design and construction. This affects many industries including architects, engineers and construction workers. Registering for certification has a variety of costs depending on the project, but these costs can usually be made up in energy savings. Several cities also offer tax-based incentives for LEED-certified buildings to drive environmentally-friendly construction.
USGBC offers four levels of certifications based on how environmentally friendly the project is. Higher certifications also receive additional benefits. For instance, earning 80 points or more earns buildings 20 hours of dedicated public relations support from USGBC’s internal communications team. Depending on your industry, there are a variety of strategies offered to increase the number of points you have. While LEED certification may seem like a daunting task, it is much easier to comply with the guidelines than you might think.
Here are a few recommended strategies to get the foundation needed for the certification.
Make your building accessible to public transportation – Cutting vehicle emissions should be a strong consideration when deciding where to put your building. During the initial site investigation, conduct a transportation survey of your future building occupants to learn which modes of transportation are close to them. Then make sure the building is placed within a half mile from a train or ferry terminal. If your occupants primarily rely on the bus to get around, try to put it no more than one-fourth of a mile away from the stop to continue encouraging public transit.
Maximize exposure to sunlight – Adding a skylight to your building isn’t only an attractive feature for buildings, it also helps it to be more environmentally friendly. If skylights aren’t appropriate for the building, use an automatic device to reduce the input power between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. With a few exceptions, these are times where there are likely to be few occupants in your building so it’s easy to reduce energy usage without creating an inconvenience. Even if occupants will be in the building after hours, project managers can install a manual or occupant-sensing device to minimize the use of electricity during those hours.
Use renewable energy whenever possible – Even a small amount of renewable energy makes a big difference. A building with nine percent renewable energy can garner five points towards LEED certification. When designing a project, assess nonpolluting options including solar, wind, bio-gas, hydro and geothermal energy. Increasing renewable energy within a building will decrease utility costs while helping the environment.
Ensure buildings have a recycling area – As people become more environmentally conscious, it is up to construction managers to make it as easy as possible for occupants to recycle. Provide a dedicated area for the collection and storage of recycled materials for the entire building. This creates an easy way for occupants to recycle.
Buy reusable construction products – This practice is near and dear to our hearts as a construction supply company. Nearly all of our products are reusable and we are certainly in favor of decreasing construction waste. And companies can go even further by developing a plan that eliminates putting used materials in landfills. Instead, recycle as much material as possible and sell or donate anything that recycling companies won’t take off your hands. Many charitable organizations look for carpet, glass or clean wood so creating a strategy to eliminate waste will help your building get a few easy points.
Build with composite wood and agrifiber products – Using green materials such as agrifiber is an easy way to help the environment. If you’ve never heard of it before, agrifiber is agricultural byproducts left on a field after harvesting. It is stronger, lighter and less expensive than mineral products and is gaining popularity within the industry. Composite wood is another popular option as it helps reduce the need for tree cutting. Another benefit from both materials is that they aren’t odorous or harmful to installers and improve the air quality. This leads to our final point.
Develop an Indoor Air Quality Strategy – Poor air quality doesn’t just harm your occupants; it’s detrimental to construction workers as well. Being a construction worker is a physically demanding job that is difficult even when they can breathe easily. Creating an effective indoor air quality (IAQ) strategy requires cutting down on pollution and improving insulation. Implementing materials in the right sequence, such as prioritizing insulation and carpeting before moving onto other parts of the project, can help immensely in making it easier for your workers to breathe. Try to avoid permanent air handlers and instead promote frequent breaks to keep the stress off your team.
Becoming LEED certified may seem like a daunting task, but with these best practices, you will be on your way to becoming a leader in green building.