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This article was written on 29 Oct 2012, and is filed under The Team.

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On building for LEED: part I

Minto Place in downtown Ottawa

Being environmentally friendly is a huge deal at Minto. We’ve been officially recognized for our green efforts numerous times over the years and our most recent projects are all LEED certified or striving for certification. Everyone agrees that this is a good thing, but what exactly does LEED certification mean? We contacted the Canada Green Building Council to find out exactly what makes a LEED certified project and why it’s worth investing in.

Initial development 

The original system went into development just after the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993 with the first LEED Pilot Project Program launching  in 1998. Since then rating systems have been developed for specific markets like LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations, LEED for Commercial Interiors and LEED for Neighborhood Development. There are currently over 14,000 LEED certified projects in the United States.

LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations officially came to Canada in 2003 with a full range of LEED rating systems for different markets having been added since. There are currently over 650 LEED Canada certified projects across the country.

The benefits of the system are proven with 1 billion square meters of LEED certified development in 135 countries. The hope is that LEED will continue to accelerate the mainstream adoption of green building standards and help change our built environment into a more sustainable one.

Separating the followers from the LEEDers

Everything is measured against a baseline for energy efficiency and each step above the baseline gets the building a point. But the cost has to be taken into account as well. In most cases, the last few points in a given category will cost the developer the most money and will probably make it necessary to cut costs in other areas. The best strategy both for saving money and for the environment is a balanced approach.

Wells Baker from Minto’s own Green Team says the first thing to look at is the building’s passive performance. Making sure you start with the most efficient building envelope means that every subsequent dollar spent, say on the furnace, will be put to better use. There are also instances where getting one point might make it impossible to get another. All of these factors make the process of determining LEED certification complicated.

Also, there is currently no perfect way of tracking a building’s performance once it’s built and occupied. Research is being done in both in the US and Canada by ENERGY STAR to gather a database and find new opportunities for green development. As tracking systems and technology improve, we’ll get better at determining where money can be best spent on efficiency. Improvements are being made all the time.

New or developing technologies have made certain prerequisites and credits more easily attainable. For example, the latest rating system for new construction requires projects to achieve a minimum reduction of 20 per cent in water use, whereas this was not a prerequisite before.

Since its inception, LEED has evolved over time to make sure that it stays ahead of industry standards while driving them to change at the same time. When everyone is achieving the minimum requirements in a given category, it means a new baseline has been established. When the bar is raised within the industry in a particular area, LEED needs to be one or two steps ahead and raise the requirements for certification.

Technological development has influenced the LEED rating system to become more rigorous but LEED also rewards new or developing technologies. It is this close relationship that pushes the industry to find new and more sustainable ways to build and maintain our built environment.

 

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