Transformational Leadership

Be a Leeding Light

Karen Hamilton asked:

The Leed rating system was created by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) as a method for measuring a building’s ‘greenness’. The acknowledged standard in the US, it is rapidly becoming an internationally-recognised benchmark for building assessment. With a growing number of UK businesses taking steps to lessen their impact on the environment, having an office which meets standardised sustainable criteria can be a real bonus to your company, not only in terms of helping the planet but also saving money, improving staff productivity and boosting reputation.

How it Works

Under the Leed rating system, buildings are assessed according to criteria set in eight categories. The criteria of each category are then arranged into six areas. Five of these you would expect to find in any environmental assessment system, but the final one, Innovation and Design Process, assesses the inventiveness incorporated in the building design and construction, awarding extra credits for remarkable elements of the build or for exceeding benchmarks in the other areas. At the end of the process, there are four levels of Leed certification, certified then silver, gold and platinum.

Going Global

Although the rating system was established for the US market, Leed is useful for multinational companies, providing an international standard against which all the facilities in a company’s estate can be assessed, even if no new construction works have taken place. This makes it easy for US-based companies to benchmark global expectations. And although some of the criteria have been defined according to American building practices, the USGBC has been careful to allow for local standard practices to be considered, meaning that global organisations have the choice as to how their building projects are carried out.

But a company does not have to be multinational to reap the rewards of having a Leed- certified office. Any company planning a fit out or refurbishment project can benefit from designing their office along the lines of the Leed principles. The Commercial Interiors category is provided for this sort of project, taking into account things like the flooring, furniture and finishes that are specified.  And you earn credits for making choices that show you have taken sustainability into consideration, such as using low VOC paints or specifying products with recycled content or locally-sourced materials.

What Does it Mean?

With the government’s recent commitment to zero carbon housing development, we in the business community should be doing our part as well, whether or not legislation currently covers commercial properties. With the early adoption of Leed, companies will be pre-empting future regulation, covering as it does many of the ideas and concepts that might be introduced.

By choosing Leed organisations show a clear commitment to environmental best practices. Unlike some environmental programmes, Leed-certified projects have to follow through with their promises and actually prove that what was designed has been constructed. Certification can only be achieved at the end of a completed project, so you can be confident in the award.

The Benefits

The three key elements that should be considered when creating a sustainable office – the planet, the people and the profit – are embedded in Leed. Projects certified by Leed pay off twice: you make reductions to energy and water bills, so this affects your bottom line by reducing your running costs as well as achieving Leed credits. Other benefits focus on the occupants, improving the interior environmental quality and reducing indoor pollutants associated with sick building syndrome, thus improving the health and staff wellbeing.

In the future office projects will be assessed according to environmental criteria, whether as part of a larger scheme to reduce a company’s environmental impact or simply to take advantage of other business benefits. Understanding the decisions which need to be made, the route which should be taken, and the efforts which will bear the most fruit, is key.

What is Leed?

·         Leed is a rating system designed for fit out and refurbishment work as well as new construction; projects are encouraged to consider sustainable elements

·         Leed is internationally recognised allowing global organisations to set one standard that can be benchmarked

·         Allows for creative and innovative approaches to projects, meaning that most sustainable elements may be considered for credits. All your efforts can be rewarded, rather than just the ones set out in the rating criteria.

FM Quick Facts

·         The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) rating is the US standard for measuring greenness

·         The Leed rating system was created by the US Green Building Council (USGBC)

·         It is increasingly being seen as the international sustainability standard for global organisations.

This article first appeared in FM World, 4 May 2007

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