Breaking Down the LEED® Criteria

| Tuesday, 13 September 2016 |
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Breaking Down the LEED® Criteria

By following LEED® guidelines, General Services has achieved LEED® certification for 21 of its buildings.

It’s sustainability mission is to strive for LEED® certification for all future new and remodel construction and to significantly impact the efficiency of older facilities within the department’s care.

LEED® (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) requires that buildings meet strict criteria in the following six categories.

The criteria can be overwhelming to those new to the LEED® certification process, so we thought we’d break them down for you one by one.


Sustainable Sites                                                                    

This feature of the LEED® certification process requires that construction projects must reduce pollution by controlling soil erosion, waterway sedimentation and airborne dust generation. The goal is to minimize the construction and finished building’s impact on the natural surroundings.


Beginning with site selection and studying how the site affects its surroundings is one of the most important considerations in the facilities-to-environment relationship. LEED® directs facility managers, planners and designers to limit light pollution; retain or detain storm water runoff to lessen the strain on sewer systems; create more green space with native plants and trees to counteract the heat island effect; and provide access to public transit and alternative transportation, thereby reducing parking capacity needs.


Water Efficiency

Water efficiency is a key feature of LEED® certification, in that projects must work to limit water use. There are several ways to achieve this, including: plant species factor; irrigation efficiency, which can eliminate the use of potable water by capturing storm water runoff for landscape use; and high efficiency fixtures in restrooms and changing areas. To achieve certification, LEED® requires a minimum of 20 percent reduction in a building’s water use.


Energy & Atmosphere                                                                            

To accomplish this step of the LEED® certification process, General Services must verify that the building’s energy-related systems are installed, calibrated and perform according to the owner’s project requirements, basis of design and construction documents. This will ensure reduced energy use, lower operating costs and reduce contractor call-backs. LEED® has guided General Services in measuring and verifying energy efficiency, using the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol.


Materials and Resources                                                                            

To be LEED certified in this category, projects must facilitate the reduction of waste generated during construction and by building occupants, which is then hauled to and disposed of in landfills. To do this, General Services made recycling -- from paper and glass to cardboard and plastics -- an easy option for the building's occupants.


When viewing a building project through the scope of sustainability – its effect on people, the planet and the profitability for economies – there are three considerations to how material and resources are valued: production, transportation and the cost of the natural environment. LEED® suggests maximizing project values by the use of local and recycled material as much as possible and minimizing construction waste through recycling rather than dumping in landfills; reusing materials such as bricks, concrete and wood; and collecting recyclables like paper, plastic, glass and aluminum.                                       


Indoor Environmental Quality                                    

In order to achieve LEED® certification, a project must establish minimum indoor air quality (IAQ) performance. The use of low VOC paints, adhesives and carpets, as well as allowing individual control of aspects of their personal areas, all work together to ensure the overall comfort and well-being of the occupants.


Air conditioning for winter and summer requires the creation of a closed environment. In most common HVAC systems, that air is not exchanged for fresh air but actually recycled, allowing bacteria, viruses and offensive chemicals to dwell in the air we breathe. Closely monitoring indoor air allows for greater health and efficiency in buildings. Building designs that utilize natural daylight and operable windows are also ways to enhance the indoor environmental quality for occupants.


Innovation & Design Process                                                                            

This area give those applying for LEED certification the change to go above and beyond the outlines requirements and to implement new and creative strategies. For example, LEED Platinum Fire Station 19 earned LEED Innovation Points for Exemplary Performance for On-Site Renewable Energy and use of Regional Materials.


LEED® includes a “regional priority” section that allows planners to adjust their program and get credits based on their area of the country. For example, a building in Nevada may receive more credit for water efficiency measures, and an area of suburban expansion may receive more credit for the reuse of an existing site.


Every project or capital improvement should be evaluated with the goal of achieving a significant level of sustainability. General Services understands and appreciates the responsibility that tax payers place with them. Serious consideration is always given to the impact that development will have many years ahead. This is why General Services invests in the beginning to assure continued savings and return deep into the future.


Still want to learn more? Visit the U.S. Green Building Council for more information.


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