LEED Accreditation and Why I Pursued It

I took a few months off from blogging (and everything else besides work) to study for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate accreditation.

LEED “is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification.” (www.usgbc.org)

I decided to pursue LEED accreditation because I wanted to learn more about green building design and sustainability practices in general. After two months of serious study, I’m happy to say that I passed the exam with high marks (yes, I’m a bit of an over-achiever) and now have a much broader understanding of green building design and practices.

LEED breaks down green building design into subcategories:
• Sustainable Sites
• Energy and Atmosphere
• Water Efficiency
• Materials and Resources
• Indoor Environmental Quality
• Innovation & Design
• Regional Priorities

Unlike common building design/construction practices, LEED projects stress a tremendous amount of pre-design planning and continual (throughout the design and construction processes) coordination among team members rather than a linear approach. During the pre-design phase, all the stakeholders (owner, project manager, design team, construction team, facility manager, etc.) meet to discuss everything from the site plan to materials use/reuse/recycling to energy and water efficiencies to low-emitting paints to on-site and off-site green energy sources and more. The team determines which level of green building design (LEED has four: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum) it wants to achieve, fills out a scorecard for attempted credits/points that must be pursued, and considers all options for meeting these goals.

Make that a Triple Bottom Line
LEED stresses the importance of both lifecycle costing (the economic costs related to a product/service/system over its lifetime) and lifecycle assessments (the overall environmental impact of the product/service from extraction/production to the product/service’s end of life on all constituents involved). This type of planning moves people beyond a simple “how much does it cost?” to “how much does it cost to install, use, maintain, and eventually dispose of/reuse the product/service?” Such an approach requires people to think long-term and to use a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) approach to planning, design, and construction that puts equal emphases on People, Planet, and Profit…rather than just considering profit, for example.

If you’d like to learn more about LEED, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s website.

For more information about the Triple Bottom Line, try these sites:

The Economist

Triple Pundit

Here’s to a greener future!

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