Nowadays sustainable buildings are no longer wished for, they’re expected. But sustainability advancements are expensive, and your budget hasn’t exactly grown in recent years. And your organization really can’t afford to build a fancy, new, green building. So how do you meet those growing expectations of your occupants (and your boss)?
Gaining a LEED certification for your existing building is an excellent way to show your organization’s commitment to sustainability.
What is LEED?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the one of the most common third-party certification systems for green buildings. It was developed by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) and is used worldwide. There are several types of certifications, but the one you should be looking into is LEED v4 Operations and Maintenance (OM) for existing buildings.
Why should I pursue it?
LEED certification has many benefits in addition to the bragging rights mentioned above.
For example, you’ll see an increase in energy and water efficiency. And it just so happens that as you increase your energy and water efficiency, you decrease your utility bills. LEED-certified buildings have shown a 19% decrease in operational costs and use 25% less energy when compared to non-certified buildings.
You’ll also find that your building occupants become more productive as improvements are made to their environment. For example, according to the USGBC, sustainability in schools can even be linked to an increase in student standardized test scores.
Not to mention, as you work towards becoming LEED certified you’ll likely complete all of those preventive maintenance tasks you’ve been deferring for reactive work orders. You’ll also likely see a decrease in reactive work orders because your building(s) will be in tip-top shape.
Is LEED worth the cost?
Going through the LEED certification process can be expensive: there are registration and review fees, in addition to the costs to update your building.
However, despite these expenses, you’ll likely see an overall decrease in your operational costs (as mentioned before) and an increase in your building value. LEED-certified buildings have been show to increase in value by 6.8%.
In addition, many state and local governments offer incentives for LEED certifications. For example, the City of Columbus, Ohio subsidizes the costs associated with the certification process for private and non-profit developers.
How does LEED work?
LEED certification is comprised of series of prerequisites, such as an energy efficiency audit. Once you have met the prerequisites, points are rewarded for any additional improvements. Your points are what earn you the LEED certification. There are four possible levels:
- Certified: 40-49 points
- Silver: 50-59 points
- Gold: 60-79 points
- Platinum: 80 points and above
Each point corresponds to a credit in the program. Credits are the types of improvements that you can get (you guessed it) credit for.
I’ve thought about getting certified before. Has LEED changed in recent years?
LEED has recently undergone a bit of a makeover. The USGBC replaced the current LEED certification, LEED 2009, with LEED v4 on Oct. 31.
In v4, LEED focuses more on effective maintenance and performance (i.e. showing an increase in energy efficiency) rather than simply updating building design.
In addition, USGBC has done its best to simplify the certification process wherever possible. They have reduced the amount of necessary paperwork, simplified the recertification process, and consolidated many of the credits.
One of the most challenging aspects of the new LEED v4 is the increase in the minimum Energy Star score prerequisite. You now need a rating of 75. The LEED 2009 rating was 69! But don’t give up quite yet, the new LEED v4 focuses just as much on performance as it does on results. If you are making substantial improvements to your building’s energy efficiency, you can still qualify at the LEED Certified level with an Energy Star score of less than 75.
How do I get my LEED certification?
Start the process early: Now is the perfect time to start researching what it would take for you to pursue a LEED certification, especially if your organization starts its budget cycle in January. The sooner you start planning, the better you can manage your time and budget for the project.
TIP: Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) like Facilities Management eXpress (FMX) can help you set a timeline for your enhancements and assign responsibilities to your team members.
Check out the LEED User Guide: You’ll find information on how to prepare for certification, minimum program requirements, the differences between LEED 2009 to LEED v4, and useful tips and tricks.
Run the numbers: Many of the prerequisites of LEED certification involve reporting statistics, like your Energy Star score. These numbers can also help you to determine if it makes sense for your organization to pursue LEED certification at this time.
Focus on advancements, not on points: You’ll receive the best results (i.e. energy savings) for your project if you focus on making general advances in sustainability, rather than focusing on individual credits.
Tackle the easy credits first: Pursuing easier credits first will give your organization more confidence in your ability to achieve LEED certification. For example, you can make interior lighting upgrades and conduct an occupant comfort survey for some easy points.
Select professionals with green-building experience if you’re making any renovations or updates to the design of your buildings.
Submit your project for certification and wait: Unfortunately, the LEED certification process is a lengthy one. Not only does the project take ample time on your end, you also have to wait for your project to be reviewed and approved by the USGBC.
TIP: FMX can help you to keep track of the data you’ll need to submit for your certification. If your organization has decided not to invest in a CMMS as this time, be sure to keep thorough records on your project, especially if you anticipate any personnel turnover.
How FMX can help
FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, reporting, and analytics can be valuable assets in your pursuit of LEED certification. View our Buyer’s Guide to learn more about how you can simplify your facilities management with FMX.
Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food.