Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Who’s the Greenest of them All? LEED Requirements Reveal the Answer.
Efforts by municipalities to increase energy efficiency have become less the exception and more the rule. Mandatory LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirements are now the norm for new construction and, in some cases, for the renovation of existing buildings. Over the past few years, cities and towns across the country have adopted LEED and LEED-like requirements in what, for many, is a quest to be as green possible.
Given the wide variety of green requirements adopted by cities and towns in recent years, developers and retailers who engage in new construction or the renovation or build-out of existing buildings need to look carefully at the requirements in particular locations, at least until more unified, superseding standards emerge. Here are a few common LEED details to consider:
- Are there any local standards? Some municipalities are implementing mandatory LEED requirements for all new buildings, while others only impose LEED requirements on buildings that exceed a certain square footage. Other cities apply LEED requirements only to new municipal buildings. To further complicate matters, some cities and towns specify the level of LEED certification that must be achieved (e.g., that all new commercial buildings of 10,000 square feet or greater must achieve a minimum of LEED Silver certification), while other cities and towns will accept any level of LEED certification.
- Are LEED requirements enough? Developers and retailers should know that in some cities even LEED certification may not be green enough. Boston is among a handful of cities looking beyond the traditional LEED criteria to create their own green scorecards. Boston currently requires that public and private development projects over 50,000 square feet earn either LEED certification or successful review and approval through a process that includes several Boston-specific credits on top of the standard LEED documentation.
- Is there more? Developers and retailers should be on the lookout for rewards and incentives offered by some cities in exchange for achieving LEED certification. For example, some municipalities will reimburse permitting fees for projects that achieve LEED certification. In others, commercial buildings achieving LEED Gold or Platinum certification are eligible to receive a partial real estate tax exemption.
In this era of constantly evolving green standards, it is critical for developers and retailers to stay on top of changes in the various LEED requirements, including the potential costs and benefits and the operational impacts. In the end, those who are ahead of the curve on green standards may find it easier to stay in the black.