The greening of the interior build-out.
Many building owners, developers, architects and engineers have adopted the LEED voluntary standard as a guideline for sustainable design, which conserves natural resources and offers potential economic and quality-of-life benefits associated with a high-performance building. However, until the development of LEED-CI, it was not feasible for an interior design to achieve LEED certification unless it was an integral part of new building construction, which was rated according to the LEED-NC rating system.
In developing the LEED-IC rating system, USGBC adapted the LEED-NC categories and many of the prerequisites and credits to make them applicable to tenant build-outs. For example, under Sustainable Sites, the LEED-NC system awards points to a new construction project for redevelopment of an urban or "brownfield" site, protection of open space, and access to public transportation. The LEED-IC system awards partial points to a build-out project of an existing building that fulfills these criteria; it also has lower thresholds for each of the four certification levels.
Key elements of the interior design that will affect certification are building site selection, mechanical system and controls, daylighting, construction process, and selection of materials used in furniture and furnishings.
The process of registering, planning, designing, constructing, documenting and certifying a LEED-IC project is the same as that for a new construction project.
The Right Team: The owner or tenant who is interested in LEED certification needs to make this a priority at the inception of a project--ideally before selecting a building--and assemble a project team with knowledge and experience in green design and construction. The team should include a sustainable design consultant experienced in green planning/design and the LEED documentation process, a mechanical engineer experienced in optimizing energy performance, and a construction manager experienced in managing construction waste.
A green planning/design consultant does not have to be LEED-accredited, although LEED-accredited professionals have demonstrated on an exam their knowledge of integrated design and their capacity to facilitate the LEED certification process.
Moreover, LEED-CI awards a point for including a LEED-accredited professional on the project team.
Cost/Benefit Analysis: There are both added costs and benefits associated with a LEED project. There are additional capital costs associated with certain LEED prerequisites and credits; for example, some energy-efficient mechanical equipment, control and monitoring devices simply cost more. There are also costs associated with producing the detailed documentation required to certify a project.
The owner/tenant who is committed to LEED typically is willing to assume these costs because these systems will contribute to a better environment, offer a life-cycle payback through savings on energy, and/or offer quality-of-life, employee recruitment, public relations, and other benefits.
However, actual LEED-associated capital costs, long-term savings and other benefits can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.
A companion rating system, LEED for Core & Shell developments (LEED-CS), is currently under development. Together, LEED-CI and LEED-CS will establish green building criteria for commercial real estate for use by both developers and tenants.
JOAN BLUMENFELD, FAIA, LEED, PRINCIPAL, SWANKE HAYDEN CONNELL ARCHITECTS