Benefits of LEED certification for business headquarters
By Robert Ferguson

INDUSTRY PULSE

Is your corporate headquarters LEED-certified?
  • Yes
  • No
Among business professionals, LEED certification is becoming the new standard by which corporate headquarters are judged. Building a LEED-certified company headquarters demonstrates a commitment to good environmental practices. But buildings meeting LEED's strict have been shown to have numerous benefits to employees, public image and a company's bottom line.

Happier Employees
LEED-certified buildings have large windows, open spaces, and are generally built with employee or occupant comfort in mind as much as energy savings. Besides offering increased sunlight, LEED buildings also have significantly higher air quality and more comfortable work space for employees. By making work a place where employees feel comfortable and happy, productivity will also increase.

Community Benefits
Having a green building that is recognized by LEED certification is a dramatic and public way of demonstrating a strong commitment to green practices and improving the environment. LEED-certified construction projects also stimulate the local economy, since one of LEED's best practices is utilizing local materials and labor wherever possible.

Lower Operating Costs
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of LEED-certification, and it ranks high on the list of any corporation considering new construction. LEED-certified projects do typically have a higher initial investment because of the need for stricter standards for construction, materials and labor, but this initial investment can be recovered in short order. Various studies have been done to measure increased efficiency among LEED buildings, but the largest of these studies was conducted by the New Building Institute in 2008 and found an average decrease in energy consumption of approximately 24 percent. This sort of savings can easily translate into millions of dollars per year.

Public Image
Green technology is a popular way of improving public image, and for good reason: people want to know that local businesses are committed to good environmental practices, and nothing demonstrates this commitment like LEED certification. Although many companies consider LEED certification purely for the environmental benefits, the improved publicity and public image are another reason to consider LEED-certified construction.

Why Choose LEED?
At the end of the day, LEED certification is the badge of a business that cares strongly about good environmental practices and is willing to spend significant resources pursuing them. Although the upfront costs are significant, LEED projects will save money for businesses in the long term and can significantly improve their public image. As the move to increase environmental awareness continues, more and more businesses will make the commitment.

How to Get LEED Certified

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) administers this program. The certification is offered to general contractors, building owners, architects and engineers, who design, build and maintain structures in an environmentally conscious fashion.

The various levels of LEED certification are tallied on a 100-point scale. Point values are assigned according to the environmental impact of building features. The greater the impact, the higher the point value. Several steps are involved in getting LEED certified:
  1. Building owners and contractors should first determine the type of LEED certification they want by reviewing the certification requirements provided by the USGBC. A construction project should meet all the requirements given in its category to qualify for the certification. Certificates are awarded for new and retrofit commercial and residential constructions.
  2. Ensure that building strategies meet the requirements of the desired level of LEED certification. All members in the construction project should follow the strategies. Areas to consider when formulating the strategies include:
    • Water system efficiency
    • Building materials
    • Use of resources with minimal environmental impact
    • Sustainably grown resources
    • Power systems
    • Environmental impact of site selection
  3. Register the construction projects with the Green Building Certification Institute by filling all the relevant application forms and paying the required registration fees. This step serves as a declaration of intent in getting a project certified. It also grants access to use of additional resources and informational materials that may assist in the building and certification process.
  4. Ensure that all rules and guidelines set out in the selected category of LEED certification are followed.
  5. Prepare for an application for certification. Each certification level requires specific documentation, which can be obtained from the official USGBC-LEED website. As part of the application process, project managers are required to indicate which certification is sought and provide a list of the individuals responsible for implementing the necessary steps needed for certification. The application should also give specific details about the green aspects of the building or project seeking an LEED certification.
  6. Complete the application and upload the needed documents to the LEED website. A certificate will be awarded if the project is approved. Project managers have a right to appeal if certification is denied.
Though LEED certification is mostly awarded to buildings and construction projects, building professionals can be certified as LEED Green Associates. Exceptional projects that exceed the requirements of LEED certification can be awarded an additional certificate known as Innovation in Design.

What are HSW Credits?

Health, Safety, and Welfare - or HSW - credits are assigned to some architectural courses in accordance with The American Institute of Architects Continuing Education System. The AIA/CES Provider Manual defines HSW in architecture as "anything that relates to the structural integrity or soundness of a building or building site. HSW protects the public and may be defined and required by law. Much like attorneys, working architects are required to continually take continuing education courses so they are always up-to-date on the important matters of their profession. In the process, they must meet requirements for HSW credits.

Whether a continuing education course offers HSW credits depends on a few simple factors. First, does the program primarily concern the science, art, or business of architecture? The public's health, safety, and welfare are usually reflected in the science of architecture, so if a program is primarily science, then it likely will offer HSW credits.

If, however, the primary focus of the program is of an artistic nature, the application of the HSW credit becomes cloudier. For example, classes about architectural finishes generally would not be assigned HSW credits. However, if a finish provides an important structural benefit - such as a design that provides safety from the elements - such a program might issue HSW credits.

Classes that focus primarily on business matters also can be difficult to peg. Insurance, for example, is a gray area. Programs about insurance that protects people and/or property during the course of a project clearly deserve HSW credits, but classes about liability insurance for designers do not. It has no direct impact on the health, safety, or welfare of the public.

Once it is determined that a course impacts HSW, it must fit into one of the AIA/CES definition categories:
  • Planning and predesign
  • Site Design
  • Building design, including interior architecture
  • Structural elements of the practice of architecture
  • Mechanical elements of the practice of architecture
  • Electrical elements of the practice of architecture
  • Plumbing elements of the practice of architecture
  • Construction materials and methods
  • Construction documents
While the assignment of HSW credits is largely determined by the definition set by the AIA, it is worth remembering that HSW is defined more strictly by some states.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ferguson is a storage solutions specialist that proudly works at Patterson Pope, an industry leading shelving and storage products company, whose mission is to help various businesses and organizations with all of their storage needs.