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02-18-21 | Feature

LEED Certification, an Overview

What it Means to be LEED Certified

Located on the campus of Western Technical College in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin, Landscape Architects with RDG Planning and Design, a Dubuque, Iowa firm, replaced an underused and dated pedestrian corridor. Sustainability was a predominant factor in the design and evolution of the courtyard. Using endemic materials that integrate hints of the surrounding landscape helped create spaces that allow users to engage in the landscape and benefit from its design. Some of the special design factors include a 15,000-gallon water reclamation system that accounts for 100% of the site's irrigation and the integration of permeable pavers, bioretention cells and native plants which help remove over 640 pounds of sediment and infiltrate over 1,683,000 gallons of annual rainwater. With 87 points, the project earned LEED Platinum certification that helped the college demonstrate their commitment to reducing the impact on the environment.
Located on the campus of Western Technical College in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin, Landscape Architects with RDG Planning and Design, a Dubuque, Iowa firm, replaced an underused and dated pedestrian corridor. Sustainability was a predominant factor in the design and evolution of the courtyard. Using endemic materials that integrate hints of the surrounding landscape helped create spaces that allow users to engage in the landscape and benefit from its design. Some of the special design factors include a 15,000-gallon water reclamation system that accounts for 100% of the site's irrigation and the integration of permeable pavers, bioretention cells and native plants which help remove over 640 pounds of sediment and infiltrate over 1,683,000 gallons of annual rainwater. With 87 points, the project earned LEED Platinum certification that helped the college demonstrate their commitment to reducing the impact on the environment.
The UCLA Luskin Conference and Guest Center courtyard and entrance gateway were redesigned by AHBE, a landscape architecture firm from Los Angeles, California. For this project, the team designed landscaped courtyards that connect the interior spaces within them. The Gateway Transit Plaza replaces the old bus waiting zone and is a major campus pedestrian entrance. The plaza features brick entry walls and pilasters, decorative brick promenade with seating, a grove of Virginia oak trees and new bus shelters. This project achieved Platinum LEED certification with a score of 81 points.
The UCLA Luskin Conference and Guest Center courtyard and entrance gateway were redesigned by AHBE, a landscape architecture firm from Los Angeles, California. For this project, the team designed landscaped courtyards that connect the interior spaces within them. The Gateway Transit Plaza replaces the old bus waiting zone and is a major campus pedestrian entrance. The plaza features brick entry walls and pilasters, decorative brick promenade with seating, a grove of Virginia oak trees and new bus shelters. This project achieved Platinum LEED certification with a score of 81 points.
Human Nature Inc., a landscape architecture firm from Cincinnati, Ohio, developed a site master plan for the Teachers-Dyer Complex at the University of Cincinnati. The site's new design allows garden courtyards around the buildings to provide outdoor spaces of various scales that can comfortably accommodate use by people, small groups, classes and large gatherings. The design and construction of this project considered the tangled array of the existing underground utilities such as the chilled water and steam pipes that were often difficult to locate until excavation was underway. Both of the rain gardens in the courtyard had to be shifted to avoid conflicts with subsurface utilities, but they have played an important role in helping the project achieve LEED silver certification with 50 points.
Human Nature Inc., a landscape architecture firm from Cincinnati, Ohio, developed a site master plan for the Teachers-Dyer Complex at the University of Cincinnati. The site's new design allows garden courtyards around the buildings to provide outdoor spaces of various scales that can comfortably accommodate use by people, small groups, classes and large gatherings. The design and construction of this project considered the tangled array of the existing underground utilities such as the chilled water and steam pipes that were often difficult to locate until excavation was underway. Both of the rain gardens in the courtyard had to be shifted to avoid conflicts with subsurface utilities, but they have played an important role in helping the project achieve LEED silver certification with 50 points.
This is an example of a LEED scorecard used for certifying a Neighborhood Development Plan project.

As someone who was recently integrated into the landscape architecture industry, I have found myself learning fascinating new components and elements of the field. For this issue I researched sustainability measures and initiatives and familiarized myself with LEED Certification. I am far from an expert, so this article is written to serve as a refresher about the basics
of LEED and to hopefully provide fascinating and inspiring examples of LEED Certified projects.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification created by United States Green Building Council (USGBC) that recognizes achievement in sustainability and leadership in architectural design. There are numerous LEED categories that include building design construction, neighborhood development, cities and communities, and several others.

Benefits
Statistics found on the USGBC website show that certification carries several benefits. Data shows that LEED projects have a competitive advantage because, as USGBC states, "61% of corporate leaders believe that sustainability leads to market differentiation and improved financial performance." Additionally, they found that there are significant environmental benefits as well. USGBC estimates that LEED certified projects have created 34% lower carbon dioxide emissions, 25% less energy consumed, 11% less water consumed, and 80 million tons of waste diverted from landfills between 2015 - 2018. Furthermore, cost reducing benefits have been estimated to save $1.2 billion in energy, $149.5 million in water, $715.3 million in maintenance, and $54.2 million in waste during the same time period.

When a project is being evaluated under this system there are three components that result in certification; those components are LEED points, credits, and prerequisites.

Perquisites
Perquisites are the set of conditions that must be met in order to become LEED certified. Examples of prerequisites within the Neighborhood Development category include smart location, agricultural land conservation, imperiled species and ecological communities, and wetland and water body conservation. While they do not result in the cumulation of points, they are fundamental to the certification which cannot be received without meeting them.

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Credits and Points
Credits and points are directly connected to one another as the approval of a credit results in the collection of points which leads to becoming certified. Specific credits are applied for when attempting to certify a project. Continuing with the Neighborhood Development Plan example, there are five different sections within the scorecard: Smart Location & Linkage, Neighborhood Pattern & Design, Green Infrastructure & Buildings, Innovation & Design Process, and Regional Priority Credits. Within those sections, credits can be individually applied for. For example, under the Neighborhood Pattern & Design section, a project can receive credit for walkable streets. If the project meets the criteria for that credit it will receive nine points (the number of points for each credit varies).

USGBC describes how credits fit into the system by explaining, "These are what truly set your building apart from the rest. You are free to go for any credit you want within your chosen rating system, as long as it applies to your project type. Certain credits pair well with certain prerequisites or even other credits... which amounts to synergistic benefits."

A minimum of 40 points of the possible 110 are required, however there are different levels of certification with the lowest called "Certified" being 40 - 49 points. The "Silver" level is 50 -59 points, "Gold" is 60-70 points, and the highest level is "Platinum" requiring at least 80 points.

LEED v4.1
The most current rating system, LEED v4.1, is being promoted as, "the next generation standard for green building design, construction, operations and performance." It is focused on improving practices in architectural design that address energy efficiency, water conservation, site and material selection, and daylight and waste reduction.

More specifically, in the words of USGBC, LEED v4.1:
aEUR? Ensures that all building stakeholders - developer, property manager, occupant and the community benefit from sustainable design, construction, operations and performance.
aEUR? Supports projects to implement sustainable and healthy architectural practices to realize environmental, economic, social and community benefits for decades to come.
aEUR? Emphasizes integrative design to ensure better design, translation of design into high quality construction, optimize operations and high performance.
aEUR? Helps projects deliver higher quality beyond market practices by incorporating innovative design, technologies, construction and material selection strategies.
aEUR? Focuses on both performance oriented sustainable strategies and outcomes.
aEUR? Helps projects consume fewer resources, reduce operating costs, increase value and create safer and healthier environments for its occupants.
aEUR? Helps projects reduce their GHG/carbon emissions.
aEUR? Helps projects use toxin free materials to deliver cleaner indoor air to improve productivity, focus and reduce respiratory illnesses of its occupants.
aEUR? Prioritizes sustainable materials, helping manufacturers to design, produce and deliver building materials that reduce the environmental impact. LEED v4.1 also helps manufacturers reduce energy, water, waste during manufacturing, carbon footprint during distribution and transportation and overall carbon emissions through the entire production lifecycle.

For More Info...
To read more about LEED:
https://www.usgbc.org/leed
To learn more about LEED v4.1:
https://www.usgbc.org/leed/v41

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2021.

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