The Beginner’s Guide to Green Building

What is Green Building?

Green building is a real estate development approach that applies the concept of sustainability across the entire real estate lifecycle from initial design and development, to operations and maintenance and ultimately to deconstruction.

For some people, the term "sustainability" only brings to mind visions of tree hugging hippies and granola...

However, green building has a serious scientific and economic rationale. Harnessing the power of clean energy, advanced technology and science to boost real estate performance is a bad-ass endeavor. Study after study indicates that implementing commercial green building strategies can:

● Reduce building operating expenses
● Reduce tax liabilities
● Increase rents
● Boost occupancy rates and reduce turnover
● Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
● Improve building occupant productivity and well-being
● Deliver higher Net Operating Income (NOI)
● Increase asset value
● Reduce cap rates

Notably, by increasing profit, improving occupant health and reducing impact green building strategies we can achieve a “Triple Bottom Line” of economic, social and environmental benefits.

Takeaways: When you have finished reading the Beginner’s Guide to Green Building you will be able to think about the basics of green building and apply them to any property.

What is LEED?

LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a global system for rating and certifying green buildings.

LEED offers a framework for understanding, implementing and measuring green building design, construction, operations and ongoing maintenance.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED rating systems and works with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) to certify buildings. LEED’s rating system applies to almost every building type, from residential to commercial.

While there are other green building rating systems1, LEED is arguably the most well known and widely accepted. As of this writing, LEED has over 12 billion square feet of building space registered or certified, with 1.85 million square feet being certified each day.

You can think of LEED as a puzzle with five major pieces, or categories, of sustainability. The following five categories work together in the LEED rating system:

1. Sustainable Sites

2. Water Efficiency

3. Energy & Atmosphere

4. Materials & Resources

5. Indoor Environmental Quality

Each category offers an approach to building green. There are requirements for minimum levels of performance within the building, called Prerequisites, and additional optional strategies, called Credits, for exceeding performance within a category. To earn a LEED rating, buildings are required to fulfill the prerequisites and earn additional credits within each category.

Credits are worth points which are accumulated toward a LEED rating and the points are weighted by environmental impact... The greater the positive impact on the environment, the more points may be earned. LEED ratings are available at incrementally higher levels of points.

● Certified: 40-49
● Silver: 50-59
● Gold: 60-79
● Platinum: 80+

Applying Green Building Basics

Anyone can learn and apply the five important, basic green building concepts in the Beginner’s Guide to Green Building:

1. Sustainable Sites
2. Water Efficiency
3. Energy & Atmosphere
4. Materials & Resources
5. Indoor Environmental Quality

With this basic knowledge you can help yourself, or your clients, evaluate and improve the performance of their real estate operations.

If you are already committed to applying green building strategies in your job or career you may want to take a bigger step and earn a green building credential. The recommended starting point is the LEED Green Associate credential. The LEED Green Associate is a beginner level professional green building credential created by USGBC, the developer of the LEED rating systems.

USGBC also offers the more advance LEED AP (accredited professional) specialty credential. The LEED AP with Specialty is a higher level credential focusing on a particular building type:

● New construction
● Existing buildings
● Commercial interiors
● Homes

Earning a LEED credential is a good idea because they are increasingly recognized in the commercial marketplace for their value and application in businesses of all kinds. Indeed, a survey conducted by Poplar Network found that when compared to other green credentials, LEED was chosen overwhelmingly as the green credential of choice.

To earn either the LEED Green Associate (also referred to unofficially as the “LEED GA”) or LEED AP credentials requires taking a two hour computerized exam.

To learn more about becoming a LEED Green Associate and how to pass the exam, read the Free LEED Green Associate Study Guide on Poplar Network.
Interested in the LEED Green Associate Exam? Click here to learn more about the LEED Green Associate Super Study Pack.

Is LEED Required?

LEED is a consensus based, voluntary standard. Although LEED is synonymous with green building and offers many benefits, you do not need to pursue LEED certification to implement the green building strategies in this guide.

However, because LEED’s framework is established, it is useful tool even if you are not interested in having your building LEED certified.

The Beginner's Guide to Green Building provides an overview of the basic aspects of the following LEED credit categories:

Sustainable Sites
Water Efficiency
Energy & Atmosphere
Materials & Resources
Indoor Environmental Quality

Within each LEED credit category, you’ll find multiple strategies for efficiency and cost savings.

Ready to learn more? Start reading the Beginner's Guide To Green Building!

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