LEEDing for a Greener Earth
“What are neighborhoods with LEED certification using it for? “
When first presented with this question, I thought to myself, what in the world is LEED certification? After a bit of research and a visit to LEED’s website, I had a good understanding of what it means to be LEED certified. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. The U.S Green Building Council developed this program with the goal to make environments more ecologically friendly with the intention of leaving less of a biological imprint on the earth. To do this, programs and systems are developed to increase energy saving, water efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and to improve indoor environmental quality.
I was unable to attend the walking tour of the neighborhood, but fortunately a video was created that I was able to view the following week. From what I gathered, it was evident that this was a low-income area of Syracuse in desperate need of major structural reworking. LEED understands that in the long run going green is the best way to proceed when doing renovations. Now that I saw how poor communities could use upgrades by being LEED certified, I wondered what other neighborhoods are trying to go green. Was this just a program being utilized by communities that were due for upgrades? Or were other businesses and up-scale neighborhoods making a change as well? This brought me to my assigned question: What types of communities are becoming LEED certified?
When I began my research, I quickly realized that not only communities were becoming certified, but businesses were being certified as well. I came across a website, called Practical Environmentalist, that had information pertaining to a Toyota dealership in Rockwall, Texas that was the first in its category to achieve the gold certification. This dealership was eco-friendly from the inside out! I thought it was fascinating how the cabinets and the other furniture in the showroom were made out of recycled agricultural waste. Not only was the visible showroom eco-friendly, but, to my surprise, the bathrooms were environmentally friendly. The urinals in the men’s bathroom require no water to flush and the faucets require no electricity to function; they are powered by solar panel installation on the roof.
Syracuse is not the only major city investing in LEED modifications. My research on usgbc.org brought me to an opera house in downtown Pittsburgh. Many aspects of the building have been changed to meet LEED standards including occupancy sensors to conserve electricity, window shades to save on cooling and heating costs, faucets with electronic sensors to prevent customers from wasting water, and floor panels that can be reversed when they wear down on one side. It is astonishing to me how such small changes can save so many resources in the long run. All of the combined upgrades increases efficiency by 23% and saves the opera house 300-500 dollars a year on water bills and 500-700 dollars a month on electricity costs. This exemplifies how going green can save a company a lot of money.
When a company or neighborhood sets out to become LEED certified they receive a checklist, which gives the prospector options for pre-approved LEED certified upgrades. This checklist is broken down into five categories: sustainable sights, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and innovation and design process. When the upgrades are correctly installed a certified LEED agent can then award points for each upgrade made, and receive the appropriate level of certification. The levels go: certified, (40-49 points) silver, (50-59 points) gold, (60-79 points) and platinum. (80-110 points) It may seem out of reach financially for many communities to become certified but thanks to our government many projects receive funding from for green building projects. I feel like if this is evident to the less financially stable communities, they may have the audacity to take on bigger projects.
This initial session of research has provided me with a solid base understanding of what it means to be LEED certified. It really broadened my thinking about what type of demographic communities are participating in LEED, and set me on multiple venues of research in the suburban, and business sectors. I am excited to get involved with the local community and make a difference for future generations to enjoy.