Sunday, August 7, 2011

Some Basics on LEED

I've been looking into the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating systems lately. There are several to choose from depending on the type of project: New Construction (NC), Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, Core and Shell, Schools, Retail, Healthcare, Homes, and Neighborhood Development.

Each system has themes, each of which has prerequisites (required elements) and credits (optional elements that give points) that get you towards the various levels of certification, which are, in ascending order of difficulty, certified, silver, gold, and platinum. To take an example, the themes for LEED for New Construction are Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and Design, and Regional Priority.

You can download descriptions of the rating systems free of charge here. LEED is interesting to me because it covers things I talk about a lot (e.g. non-car transportation, building densely, re-using an exiting site instead of developing on virgin land, mixing land uses, etc.), but also covers a lot of topics I don't consider much here.

To take just a few examples, using less water, say through drought tolerant landscaping, or collecting and reusing rainwater, or installing efficient fixtures and appliances. Another is materials: making sure less waste goes to the landfill in a construction project, reusing parts of existing buidings, getting your wood from forests that are certified as sustainable harvest, using local materials, etc. On the indoor front, using materials that off-gas fewer volatile organic compounds, and giving people more control over lighting and thermal comfort. On energy, installing efficient appliances, right-sizing the building to save on heating and lighting costs/impacts, using renewable energy on-site or paying for it off site, and using passive design to reduce the need for artificial lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilating, air conditioning).

There's a lot to consider in green building. We need to pay attention to neighborhood-scale issues as well as issues that are best addressed at the scale of individual buildings.

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