The design of a company’s corporate headquarters and offices can also have a huge influence in its overall sustainability ratings. In fact, sustainable architecture (the practice of using green construction materials and green-friendly building practices) is currently experiencing a surge of business interest, in large part because of demand from environmentally conscious consumers.
The most common assessment tool used to judge a building’s green design qualities is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)certification system, a means of assessing various green factors used in building design created and monitored by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The basic structure of LEED certification is a scale of 0-100 points, which can be earned through a number of design features, including:
- Using recycled material in the building’s construction
- Supplying energy and power through renewable methods
- Having exceptional standards in heating and cooling efficiency
- Reducing environmental impact during construction
There are four tiers of LEED certification, indicating increasing sustainable building practices:
- Certified: 40 through 49 points
- Silver: 50 through 59 points
- Gold: 60 through 79 points
- Platinum: 80 points and higher
Higher levels of LEED certification can be quite difficult to achieve. For example, as of 2011, there are less than 100 LEED Platinum certified buildings in the United States! However, for any business, achieving a high level LEED score can be an attractive goal and brings with it certain benefits. For example, a high LEED certification level can be a great selling point used by a corporation to woo environmentally conscious consumers and investors. In addition, incentives in the form of federal and local subsidies or tax benefits are often available for high level LEED certified buildings.
For LEED designers
For architects, contractors, and project managers who wish to achieve accreditation for expertise in LEED design, two primary tests are used to determine candidacy. These tests are created and offered by the GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute), an organization under the support of the US Green Building Council. The two accreditation tiers are:
LEED Green Associate credentials: The most basic LEED credential, this exam introduces concepts designed for a non-professional (for example, construction and contract workers) involved in sustainable building.
LEED AP (Accredited Professional) credentials: The LEED AP exam is more challenging than the Green Associate credential and contains deeper concepts of sustainable design. This exam is designed for those professionals with significant role in the design process (architects and project managers). It begins with the Green Associate exam but also includes a number of different specialty exams (including homes, building design, and neighborhood development), which can be selected by the test taker based on areas of interest or professional field.
An upcoming third tier of accreditation, called the AP fellow, has been hinted at by the GBCI, though details have not been released as to this exam’s expectations. Incidentally, for those who wish to take an upcoming LEED AP or Green Associate exam, a number of guides exist to help prepare for the exams and are available to buy throughout the Internet.