LEED Accreditation

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The topic of environmental responsibility is hotter than ever. Everyone, from individual consumers to big business, is trying to do their part to tread lighter on the planet. If you pay attention to the media storm surrounding the green movement, you have most likely heard the acronyms "USGBC" and "LEED" used, and if you have ever wondered just exactly what they stand for, then read on.

USGBC - U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org
The USGBC is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the pursuit of environmentally friendly construction and building practices. Based out of Washington DC, they are currently comprised of 78 regional USGBC chapters, over 20,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 100,000 LEED APs (more on this in a minute). There are two types of membership: national membership and chapter membership. National membership is on a corporate level: any company or organization that shares the USGBC's commitment to eco-friendly building principles can join, and all full-time employees can take advantage of the USGBC national member benefits. Chapter Membership is open to everyone, regardless of whether or not his or her company is a national member, and it allows chapter members to participate in local chapter events. The USGBC supports the continued growth of the green building sector through education and the LEED rating system.

USGBC Mission Statement "To transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life."

LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (www.usgbc.org/leed)
LEED is a green building rating system developed by the USGBC to help quantify the sustainable measures put in place during the design, construction, and subsequent operation of a green building. It is a point-based system that aims to certify buildings that employ strategies which improve the buildings performance in several key areas, including energy conservation, water efficiency, decreasing CO2 emissions, better indoor air quality, and a conscious effort to utilize eco-friendly materials and resources. In LEED v3 (introduced earlier this year), there are 100 points possible plus 10 bonus points (for a total of 110 points). The building must meet all prerequisites and meet a minimum number of points to be certified. There are various levels of certification based on the number of points the building achieves: Certified 40+ points, Silver 50+ points, Gold 60+ points, and Platinum 80+ points.

There are several different rating systems, such as LEED for Existing Buildings, LEED for Commercial Interiors, and even LEED for Homes, just to name a few. Each rating system has its own set of requirements for certification, but they all aim at improving the buildings performance. An example of the requirements for a point could be: Improve the building’s water efficiency by 40%, with the possibility of earning an extra point for improving the water efficiency by 60%.

The complexity of the LEED rating system is not easily navigated by just anybody, and that is where LEED Professional Accreditation comes into play. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) manages the testing of individuals who want to become a LEED Green Associate (the first exam) and then a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP – the final exam). The Green Associate exam focuses on LEED core concepts, whereas the AP exam focuses on a specialty, such as New Buildings + Construction or Neighborhood Development (plus several more focus areas).

The LEED rating system is the current industry benchmark for green buildings, and its widespread use is only projected to grow. According to the USGBC, the annual US market for green building products/services was $7 billion in 2005, $12 billion in 2007, and it is estimated to reach $60 billion in 2010! It is a growing industry that everyone will benefit from.

While most garage projects are not eligible for LEED certification, it is possible to employ some of the same strategies in order to improve the efficiency of your garage. We will go into more detail on this subject at a later date. So for now, continue your search for the perfect garage, and check back soon for more ideas about how to make your garage green!