Benefits of LEED certification to property owners

Benefits of LEED certification to property owners

A recent post on this blog detailed the LEED certification organization, an independent green building standards authority, which, through accreditation, creates career opportunities for those looking to be involved in green building construction. The LEED accreditation and certification programs are not just valuable for those looking to become directly involved in the industry, but also for business and home owners interested in LEED certified property. This post aims to be a short discussion on the benefits to property owners of LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was originally developed by the U.S. Green Building Council as a grading system for new and existing developments, assessing the design and placement of new and existing buildings for environmental impact and the use of green technologies. LEED works with a system of credits, assigning points across a variety of categories which include:

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality

The credit system itself is varied depending on the type of building or buildings being constructed, with suitable metrics for different types of commercial buildings or complexes, residential buildings, neighbourhoods, and the approach is again varied between new construction at the design stage, and for existing structures which are to be modified with the aim of seeking LEED certification. At any stage, a LEED certification entails a computer model of the building in question to predict future resource use.

Three things are apparent from this description of LEED. First off, a focus on sustainability through Material and Resource expenditure, as well as energy and water efficiency, pay dividends in the long run as operating costs and maintenance fees are foreseen and mitigated. This translates into increased property value for the owner as novel architectural and engineering concepts come into play, as well as reduced costs on resources as LEED incentivizes builders to innovate from cooling and heating mechanisms to waste disposal and water treatment. LEED buildings often make use of on-site renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, LEED is also a mark of prestige and design excellence, and projects seeking LEED approval naturally attract talent in engineering and architectural fields.

Another aspect of the LEED certification is its emphasis on the well-being of those who inhabit or otherwise make use of the building. Green design by itself often coincides with superior ergonomics to begin with, as buildings begin to be designed with natural lighting in mind when energy consumption becomes a concern, for example. In addition, LEED also awards points for pains taken at the design stage to improve air and water quality. LEED buildings tend to provide healthier work and living environments, translating into long term health and productivity, in the case of commercial developments.

The final aspect of the LEED certification scheme that I wish to highlight here is suggested by the Sustainable Sites credit category, and the fact that LEED has marking schemes for neighbourhoods (LEED-ND). LEED does not grade a building just because of what exists from the walls inwards, but rather understands that a building’s environmental impact is a function of its placement and interaction with surrounding buildings and ecology. For example, the most energy efficient building in the world built on the filled in remnants of an ecologically vital marshland would score few points in this category. This part of the LEED certification lends itself well to planned neighbourhood developments with a comprehensive system of guidance for these kinds of massive and logistically complex projects. In particular, there is a synergy between certifications like LEED, which promote holistic green community development, and modern schools of urban design, like the urban village paradigm or New Urbanism. A prime example of a new building seeking LEED certification in an already certified LEED neighbourhood is the Nun’s Island condo development by Evolo, just outside of downtown Montreal, which makes use of on-site renewable energy, green roofs, modern urban design concepts, and so on.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that LEED certification works, by and large. Surveys of LEED ranked buildings show that they are on average more than 25% more energy efficient than similar non certified buildings, that they show higher property values, and that their tenants are healthier and more productive. It’s a good indication that green architecture does more than fulfill our environmental responsibilities, but actually results in better buildings and better living by any metric.

This is a guest post by Sophie Tardiff. Sophie is a freelancing home decor and real estate writer. She works with multiple national brands and enjoys assisting boutiques with their specialized needs.

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About

Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.

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