It’s Easy Being Green

Buildings as old as 100 years now can attain coveted LEED certification, courtesy of the innovative LEED Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) program.  According to an article in the April, 2008, issue of Midwest Real Estate News, green design has become a given in commercial construction.  Now, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has extended the designation to older buildings, as well as new.

Because the current commercial inventory includes so much existing product – more space is in existence than is anticipated to be delivered over the next 20 years — the USGBC is promoting its LEED-EB designation as a primary initiative.  “Between now and 2030, it is estimated that there will be 150 billion SF of existing space in the U.S. and 450 billion SF worldwide,” said Hill Burgess, a director at Darien, IL-based Wight and Company.  “There is a bigger shoeprint of existing space.”

Achieving LEED-EB status requires updating obsolete energy-management systems; using earth-friendly cleaning supplies; relying on natural daylight as much as possible; adding bike racks to encourage low-impact commutes; and replacing florescent lighting fixtures with more efficient, cleaner substitutes.  The road to green with existing space requires altering practices rather than making structural or design improvements.  Achieving LEED-EB status also involves an ongoing commitment by the company to continuing the process.

Additionally, cleaning company or waste-management services may need to alter their routines to comply with LEED ethics.  Because relatively few building owners are presently applying for this accreditation, vendors tend to lack incentive to make the necessary changes.

According to Mark Bettin, Vice President of Engineering at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, “Sub-metering of electrical use is one of the most important pieces of the process to enable large, older buildings to gain LEED-EB certification.  By breaking down energy consumption to an individual scale, tenants can see how their energy use affects the building as a whole.

“Sub-metering is important because it will allow tenants to see the results of energy use,” Bettin said.  “A lot of buildings have master meters that don’t break down individual use.”