Over the last decade, green initiatives have jumped to the forefront of conversations on the journey to create sustainable cities. Since 2009, standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council have slowly usurped leading, existing green-building certifications awarded by through the EPAs Energy Star program. “Leaders around the world have made LEED the most widely used third-party verification for green buildings, with around 1.85 million square feet being certified daily.” – USGBC
The USGBCs LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification program is available for both new construction and existing buildings.
- Commercial Office Spaces
- Data Centers
- Health Facilities
- Core & Shell Development
- Homes, Communities and Neighborhoods
But what exactly does becoming LEED certified mean for your building or construction project?
Becoming LEED certified provides a number of benefits like,
- Reducing your energy and water consumption and improving your IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). Additionally, materials used in new construction or renovation projects are selected based on sustainability standards set by the USGBC.
- Significant investments are made in improving the LEED certification process — the program is revised on a regular 2-year cycle. In turn, you can be assured that your building space is up-to-date on the most recent sustainability innovations, and that you’re able to continue to receiving green building incentives.
- LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, and on average can reduce energy and water bills by as much as 40%.”
The increased building efficiency afforded by a LEED certification can assist your organization in a number of areas — job creation, R&D, marketing, etc. — due to energy cost reductions.
The LEED certification process relies on a point accrual system, wherein applicants are able to receive certification from the USGBC based on four tiers — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The certification point system, referred to as the Credit Weighting Process, includes three steps. As cited in the LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations Guide,
- A collection of reference buildings are used to estimate the environmental impacts of any building seeking LEED certification in a designated rating scheme.
- NIST weightings are used to judge the relative importance of these impacts in each category.
- Data regarding actual impacts on environmental and human health are used to assign points to individual categories and measures.
After the launch of LEED by the USGBC, there were a number of findings in the initial reports of regulatory agencies like the EPA, whom voiced similar concerns by contractors, architects, and construction companies. While there was controversy regarding the 2009 process, there have been regular updates (2-year cycle) to eliminate certification loopholes.
As of 2010, “The program also is requiring all newly constructed buildings to provide energy and water bills for the first five years of operation as a condition for certification. The label could be rescinded if the data is not produced, the officials said.” – NY Times
The newest LEED standards make allowances for regional priorities. In the past, concerns like water conservation were given equal weight whether a building was constructed in wet Seattle or dry, hot Phoenix. And buildings located in suburban, exurban or rural areas — where access to public transportation is slim to none — could win LEED certification, despite contributing to what some critics call ‘green sprawl’ that bulldozes natural ecosystems and forces people into long automobile commutes. – Green Living
So, how can Green Air [Environmental] help your organization earn LEED points?
While your building may not be a new construction, enlisting their services — and those of other sustainable organizations — can earn points through the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Program.
What is LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance?
The USGBC has devised a scoring system for building maintenance projects, similarly to that of refurbishment and renovation projects. LEED certification points are not inherently for new construction projects. Serving instead as criteria for recognizing buildings that adopt sustainable practices in an effort to reduce their energy footprint.
The criteria by which building maintenance is scored is known as the Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, and is defined as,
The tool for the ongoing operations and maintenance of existing commercial and institutional buildings. The certification system identifies and rewards current best practices and provides an outline for building’s to use less energy, water and natural resources; improve the indoor environment; and uncover operating inefficiencies. – USGBC
To elaborate, Green Air provides a sustainable, chemical-free HVAC and AHU coil cleaning service. The solvent-free process not only restores HVAC units to like-new condition, but improves the IAQ of buildings without introducing harmful fumes. This would fall into one of nine key areas – Indoor Environmental Quality – evaluated by the USGBC in awarding LEED certification points.
The difference between LEED for New Construction and LEED for Existing Buildings:Operations and Maintenance is “To certify the operations and maintenance of the building and create a plan for ensuring high performance over time.” The rating system for Existing Buildings: O&M is judged by factors like,
- Waste Management
- Temperature Monitoring
- Commuting Programs
- Land use
Whereas LEED for New Construction is a one-time certification, O&M requires an institutionalized reporting process to be tested against on an ongoing basis. However, in order for your building to be eligible for Existing Buildings: O&M LEED certification, it must be fully operational for at least 12 months. Additionally, you are eligible to re-certify yearly, although certifications are valid for up to five years.
In understanding how Green Air can assist you in earning LEED points for Existing Buildings, how does O&M actually affect your IEQ?
Through adopting LEED practices, building owners and/or managers are able to improve building performance and overall IEQ by,
- Reduces the costs of problems arising from daily building operations
- Reduces environmental footprint from organization
- Creates healthier, more productive work spaces for building occupants
- Publicly recognized for organizational leadership in sustainability
Speaking of gaining public recognition via LEED certification, the Existing Buildings point system is the same as New Construction’s.
There are 100 base points with 6 possible for Innovation in Design and 4 points for Regional Priority:
- Certified 40–49 points
- Silver 50–59 points
- Gold 60–79 points
- Platinum 80 points and above
*For more information on whether your building is a viable candidate for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance LEED certification email, [email protected]*
As the conversation surrounding sustainable practices continues to grow, there’s no better time than now to implement green initiatives. Start by making small changes, but it’s best to begin with preventative measures.
Green Air uses a steam cleaning approach which penetrates deeper beneath Heat Exchanger coils surface. Utilizing medium-pressure, high temperature steam settings, Green Air is able to penetrate deeper than chemical cleaning methods, which only reach two to three inches beneath a coil surface — however, a standard coil thickness is about 14 inches!
Their sustainable practices are educating every industry from healthcare to retail on the chemical hazards introduced to the environment. While both necessary and good intentioned, chemical coil cleanings are not the best idea. To learn more about how you can improve your IAQ, IEQ, and standard of living, contact Green Air.