The Next Green Wave

[by Ken Sidebottom]

The green wave resulting from the impact of LEED for New Construction (LEED NC) on the building design and construction Industry might be dwarfed in comparison to the next (and even larger) green wave - LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EBOM) - could bring to bear on the entire built environment. This is very good news for the environment, building occupants and building owners if past results and current trends continue.

To qualify for LEED EB, a building must reduce its historical energy usage by at least 20% and it must use more efficient plumbing fixtures than most existing buildings. It must also commit to reducing waste sent to landfills by recycling durable goods and ongoing consumables and by using more environmentally responsible products.

Most are aware of how the LEED rating systems have expanded to cover multiple new building types. The success has been great, with over 5 billion GSF impacted in just 9 years! The LEED for Existing Building rating system was released 5 years ago, after a pilot program that certified about 25% of the 100 projects that applied. Many improvements have occurred since then and LEED EB O&M 2009 is the latest.

The trend had been that about 2% of all projects registered and certified by the USGBC were existing buildings (i.e., buildings occupied and fully operational while the LEED certification process took place). In the past 18 months, however, this trend has escalated exponentially to where it is now roughly 10% of all buildings in the LEED programs. North Texas is consistent with this national trend with a current rate of 9%.

A popular saying used by those serving the emerging EB market is, “The greenest building is one that already exists.” Very true, when you consider the materials, resources and energy that goes into building a new one; even more so, if the new building displaces an existing one that is razed to make room for it.

The bulk of LEED existing buildings are commercial and corporate real estate properties while the higher education market is a close third in the number of registered and certified existing buildings. These tend to be larger (on average over 450,000 GSF) than the 175,000 GSF average LEED new construction building. If this trend continues, the impact (reduced air emissions, energy and water consumption and waste disposal to our land- fills) will be very significant. With the market for existing buildings at 80-100 times that of new buildings built each year, this market has the potential to make us more efficient as an industry in a shorter period of time.

The service providers for the existing building market are not necessarily the same ones doing the work on new green building projects (thus creating more green jobs for North Texas). There are opportunities for architects and engineers, but energy retrofits and water fixture upgrades are areas that energy service companies (ESCO’s) and building maintenance companies and other building retrofit service providers can use to create new business and grow profitability.

This next green wave will be a key factor intaking us from a depressed market to economic recovery in the building industry. Committing to use the LEED EB Rating system for improving a building’s performance in the areas of economic, environmental and social impact will allow building owners to reap the benefits of becoming a green building without paying the fees associated with certification and documentation submittal to the USGBC. Education is integral to success, and key to USGBC’s primary mission, towards the goal of transforming the built environment in a generation.

Ken Sidebottom, CEM LEED AP is the Manager of Sustainable Buildings for Johnson Controls International and the president of the North Dallas Chapter of the USGBC.


Learn more about LEED EB rating with respect to entrance mats.

See our Eco Green Entrance Mat Products.


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