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LEED and Beyond: An Introduction to Green Building Standards

image of a LEED silver plaque on the exterior of a building.

When you picture the contributors to global warming in your mind’s eye you likely imagine clouds of dense smoke billowing from coal-powered electricity plants or the dark plume of exhaust from a semi-tractor. Did you know that in the US, buildings are responsible for 38% of the total carbon dioxide emissions? Buildings use 39% of the total energy use, and 68% of electricity use. In response to the growing concern of climate change, demand for sustainable and green buildings, such as those which are LEED Certified, has skyrocketed.

Green in More Than One Way

Green buildings don’t just offer energy and emissions savings. Implementing sustainability concepts and green building practices can improve your company’s bottom line. Studies show that buildings with an increased focus on indoor environmental quality can improve worker productivity and reduce absenteeism1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920980/[/note0.] Research has also shown that employees want to work for companies that are value-oriented in regards to topics such as sustainability. These improvements can have a real effect on the business; more productivity and less absenteeism mean more “green” for your company!

LEED By Example

Today, there are a number of green building standards that are being implemented worldwide. You might see the tell-tale sign of a seal with a trio of oak leaves when you walk into a building, designating that the building has achieved some form of LEED certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a series of green building standards developed by the USGBC, U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED program was started in 1993, and since then there have been a number of updates and new versions rolled out. The most current version of LEED, v4.1, was rolled out in 2019 and has an updated approach that considers the performance monitoring of the building greater than in past versions. This means projects can earn points for ongoing performance outcomes, wherein older versions of LEED there was a larger focus on meeting certain goals and benchmarks with no requirement for ongoing monitoring. 

Beyond LEED

LEED might be the most globally widespread green building certification program, but there are many other green building standards to choose from. Some other programs such as WELL, Fitwel, NGBS, Green Globes, and others might suit your project better than others. The aim of all of these programs is to verify that buildings meet listed standards related to sustainability and green building. There exist green building programs for practically any building type worldwide, whether a home, school, office, factory, hospital, and beyond. These standards take all aspects of construction and building operations into consideration — from the materials used, the amount of ventilation the HVAC supplies, landscape watering scheduling, air quality monitoring, and much more.

Our company can help with some testing requirements for many green building standards, such as LEED v4 or v4.1 EqC4 Indoor Air Quality Assessment. Even if you are not seeking a green building certification, improving air quality can still be beneficial to your business! If you have questions or concerns about the air quality in your property, reach out to us!

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”