By Leslie Guevarra
Published June 29, 2011
The U.S. Green Building Council's streamlined LEED certification for large groups of existing buildings graduated from pilot phase to official status this week after five years in development, and some of its early adopters are already reporting strong energy and water savings from the program.
The USGBC announced the formal launch of the LEED Volume Certification program covering the operations and maintenance of existing buildings (known in green building shorthand as LEED-EBOM Volume Certification) at the Building Owners and Managers Association's International Conference in Washington, D.C.
Volume certification enables companies, commercial real estate firms, schools and others with a portfolio of non-residential property to expedite green building certification for 25 or more structures. The process reduces paperwork, costs and the time involved to apply and be reviewed for green building certification under the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
The volume program, whose pilot stage began in 2006, has two tracks. One covers from-the-ground-up construction, major renovations and commercial interiors. Companies that choose this path first seek pre-approval of a design prototype. After it is obtained, firms can pursue volume certification for projects built according to the pre-certified prototype.
The second track is for existing properties of any age that are run in conformance to a pre-certified set of standards for operations and maintenance. It's not necessary for the sites to share identical physical features. The prototype for this path is a framework for using the same policies, operational practices, measurement tools and documentation methods across a portfolio.
The track for design and construction volume certification got underway first. By the time it emerged from its pilot and was officially launched at Greenbuild last November, several companies had obtained pre-approval of prototypes or achieved volume certification for their first batch of buildings. Early adopters include Citi, Kohl's, Marriott, PNC Financial Services Group, Starbucks, Starwood and Wells Fargo. Economies of scale offered by the volume program prompted Best Buy to give LEED another look and include green building certification in its sustainability strategy, the company said in a testimonial.
Early participants in the LEED-EBOM Volume Certification program include Cushman & Wakefield. The company joined the pilot in 2008 and was the first commercial real estate firm to attain LEED certification under the standard with 18 properties achieving certification in January 2010. The majority of buildings certified in the program average a 30 percent reduction in water usage over the LEED baseline and 51 percent waste diversion of ongoing consumables, the company found.
In May last year, real estate investment advisor Bentall Kennedy had 28 commercial buildings certified under the LEED-EBOM volume program. At the time, it was the largest group of existing buildings to earn volume certification. Then in April this year, Bentall Kennedy received certification for another 17 buildings. The company says that as a result of the volume program for existing buildings, it's seeing an average of 33 percent greater portfolio energy efficiency than the national average and portfolio water savings that average 34 percent.
Kohl's, which is participating in both tracks of the volume program, has 144 LEED certified stores; 41 percent are existing buildings. Overall, about 13 percent of the retailer's stores are LEED certified. On average, the certified properties are 32 percent more energy efficient than baseline stores, use 50 percent less water for irrigation and see savings of as much as 30 percent in general water consumption with use of in-store plumbing fixtures that are designed to conserve water, the company said in a case study of its program participation. Kohl's also found that certification reviews under the volume process take about a third of the time the company had "previously allocated for a one-off certification."
About 20 companies and universities are participating in the volume certification program. As of February, more than 500 properties received LEED ratings through the program. As of Monday, that number had grown to more than 625 projects, the USGBC said.