By Nick Banks with Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group
Sustainability, “going green,” LEED certified. Terms like these are progressively inching their way into the world of commercial real estate, as companies strive to operate more efficiently. Business owners also want to make decisions to lessen the impact their firms have on the environment. Plenty have good intentions, but where does the recycled rubber meet the road? How can companies reasonably implement the changes needed to become as “green” as possible?
The most widely recognized definition of Sustainable Development comes from the 1987 report “Our Common Future,” also known as the Brundtland Report, which defines Sustainable Development as: “Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability is frequently associated only with environmental objectives; however, it also encompasses social, cultural and economic effects. As a business owner you have the opportunity to make choices that affect the sustainability level of your business. The location you choose, materials you use to operate, efficiency upgrades you make to lighting and other mechanical equipment, as well as the decisions you make if you build your own facility, can all affect the sustainability of your business facility.
The most commonly used measurement of sustainability in commercial real estate is the LEED certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a voluntary program administered by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) that provides third party verification of green buildings. LEED is a point system in which various components of a structure are awarded points for compliance with certain sustainable efforts. There are separate LEED groups for new construction, existing buildings, major renovations, commercial interiors, retail and healthcare, among others.
The major credit categories include:
- Sustainable site credits: encourage strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources.
- Water efficiency credits: promote smarter use of water.
- Energy and atmosphere credits: promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies and design.
- Materials and resources credits: encourage the use of sustainable or recycled building materials.
- Indoor environmental quality credits: promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.
There are four certification levels for LEED, which are based on the scoring system and the meeting of certain prerequisites. The four levels are:
- Certified (40-49 points)
- Silver (50-59 points)
- Gold (60-79 points)
- Platinum (80+ points)
What can you do to make your business facility more sustainable?
- Contact a LEED Green Associate to get tips and more specific information. These professionals have a broad understanding of sustainability and are required to maintain their credentials through continuing education to ensure they are always aware of the latest trends.
- Visit www.usgbc.org to get more information on how you can incorporate sustainable features and design into your remodel or new construction project.
- Purchase LEED Certified and Energy Star Rated products or systems when it is time to upgrade or replace mechanical items at your business, like your HVAC systems, lighting or plumbing.
Like many things in business, a little research and knowledge can go a long way. Green practices and sustainable thinking in general make good business sense. Many of the investments you make in sustainability result in long-term cost savings. You and your team also will enjoy the benefit of knowing you have done your part to help protect our environment for the future while managing resources wisely.