Tuesday, June 2, 2009

LEED Evolution

Expanding on what I previously wrote about LEED for retail, the idea of considering the use of a building when determining its sustainability could be applied to other types of structures like, say, office buildings. Take a new sixty story tower in Chicago that pre-qualified for LEED Gold as an example: an evolved LEED system might ask such questions as:

1) What kind of businesses will be tenants? For example, a traditional oil business would be a strike while an environmental consultant would earn points.
2) How will the employees get from home to the office? Single occupancy vehicles or transit?
3) Will recycling and composting be available and used? (I worked in a Unico-owned building in Seattle where composting was available.)
4) If air travel is required, will the tenants offset their carbon? (my previous employer sent employees all over the world in the name of profit-seeking; I can't even fathom the carbon footprint of this portion of the business operation.)

Integrating such "sustainable business practices" into the ranking of sustainability for the building might also lead to more dynamic public relations. Rather than the USGBC plaque inside the front door, maybe a digital sign -- like a sanguine version of the national debt clock -- is mounted over the front doors and displays statistics related to sustainability and ranks the building in comparison with its neighbors. Further competition between tenants in the same building could also be encouraged, publicized, and rewarded.

This sort of "synergy" between tenants and landlords might also be a less expensive ways for owners of older buildings to get involved with LEED: expensive renovations to meet LEED for Existing Building standards might be postponed -- especially in the current economy -- but rent credits could be extended to tenants shifting to more sustainable business practices.

This is, of course, not meant to detract from the sustainable features of the building itself but, rather, to encourage a more robust ranking system that better represents the impact of a building's existence on the natural environment.

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