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Inward Investment Guides

The Next Generation in LEED

LEED for Commercial Interiors (CI) now gives tenants the ability to make sustainable choices when they do not have control over an entire building's operations.

David Birdwell, Executive Vice President and Chief Operation Officer, IDI (Oct/Nov 09)
As LEED continues to evolve as the standard against which all new construction is measured for environmental sustainability, there is a new wave in LEED certification that is gaining momentum. LEED for Commercial Interiors (or LEED CI) is the logical next step for commercial developers and tenants as we collectively seek to innovate and lessen our impact on the earth and natural resources.

LEED CI is a benchmark established in 2005 for certifying green interiors that are healthy, productive places to work. They are also less costly to operate and maintain, and have a reduced environmental footprint. LEED CI is unique in that it gives tenants the power to make sustainable choices when they may not have control over whole building operations.

From its conception, IDI has embraced the practice of sustainable development for core and shell in our industrial facilities. However, it was often too costly and impractical for our tenants to build out interiors to LEED specifications. With recent developments in cost-responsible yet environmentally friendly building materials, furniture, fixtures and equipment, and new technologies, it is now almost insensitive to not consider the environmentally friendly route when renovating or building out new construction.

In fact, IDI recently moved its corporate headquarters to an office building in midtown Atlanta that was built in the early 1980s. While the building itself is not LEED certified, it was integral to our position as a leader in sustainable industrial development to create an environmentally friendly new headquarters within the existing structure. Many of the lessons learned during this process are now assisting us in providing expertise and guidance to our tenants who are increasingly interested in building green from the inside out.

Review the Rating System
The LEED rating system is complex and ever-changing, and should be reviewed at the outset of any project, as well as throughout construction. Industrial facilities are rated on the same criteria as commercial office space, though the two differ tremendously in terms of both form and function. In addition, the U.S. Green Building Council recently made changes to the LEED process to ensure there isn't a gap between design and construction and actual performance, and now requires that any buildings certified in 2009 and beyond collect and submit energy and water bills for the first five years of operation to validate their certification. Tenants may provide this information voluntarily, but if they fail to do so, they are at risk for having their certification rescinded.

Evaluate Operational Needs
When considering LEED CI for a new manufacturing or distribution facility, it is also important to evaluate the highest and best use of a space before simply going down the LEED checklist. It is not necessary to seek CI certification for an entire industrial facility. In fact, companies can concentrate on obtaining certification solely for the office portion of a building, often making certification more feasible and affordable.

Form a Strong Team
Once a facility's intended use is clear, the developer and tenant should select a project team that can easily work as a cohesive unit dedicated to meeting the project goals. Following a process of integrated design will ensure the team minimizes potential errors and creates a facility that is functional for the long term.

By selecting team members or firms with a LEED Accredited Professional (A.P.) designation, tenants can be assured the facility will be built and operational as designed. It is important to have a LEED A.P. on each part of the team - architect, engineer, landscape architect, construction, and developer.

Independent commissioning agents can also be hired to be part of the project team, though many large engineering and architectural firms have commissioning agents on staff. Commissioning is an important step designed to save on costs over the project lifecycle, while ensuring the building operates as designed.

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