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LEED-ing to the future of building design

  • Published at 07:56 pm January 13th, 2020

Nearly 400 projects in Bangladesh have received LEED certification

What is the one thing that makes something stand out or be more valuable from the rest? In terms of people, it tends to be their personality or appearance. For food, it is usually its taste or smell. And for buildings, it is their sustainability and impact on the environment. Yes, the modern urban landscape is quite different from the one found in previous decades. The need for eco-friendly and green urban development has almost reached its apex, and everyone understands that very well.

People are actively trying to reduce resource usage — or wastage — as well as their carbon footprint; and that is exactly why “LEED Certification” in building design and construction is so valued. The environmentally-conscious individuals of Gen X and Gen Y perceive LEED Certification as an integral and crucial component for urbanization and the way to move forward. So, it is no surprise that such certification has become a sort of a “brand” itself, and people are willing to spend more to be part of it.

What is LEED?

The World Green Building Council estimates that about 39% of all carbon emissions in the world stem from building and construction, with 28% of it coming from operational emissions with the rest emanating from the construction process and the materials used. This has a profound impact on the environment and the well-being of the people.

The “Green Building” revolution that is taking place throughout the world today aims to scale down negative impact on the environment by designing greener properties using eco-friendly building materials and better resources, generating less waste and utilizing a more ecological construction process – and that is where LEED, or “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” comes in.

LEED provides the framework for developers and projects necessary for creating and constructing green designs and buildings. The LEED program, regulated by the US Green Building Certification Institution, uses a point rating system to certify projects that follow and utilize the best green building practices. Each green practice — such as installing solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems — earns the project points towards LEED certification.

Once achieved, the project receives a badge of endorsement and is seen as a symbol of green sustainability, displaying the accomplishments of the project in creating healthy, highly-efficient and cost-saving green buildings.

Earning LEED certification

Each LEED point — or credit — is earned by following several sustainability features or actions which enable the project in question to create a holistic and healthy green building. There are four levels of LEED certification — certified (40-49 points), silver (50-59 points), gold (60-79 points) and platinum (80+ points). As per the latest for LEED Building Design and Construction — V4 — there are nine categories to earn points in.

Integrative process: The first credit of the LEED Certification ratings can be earned by analyzing the various energy and water-related systems to ensure the presence of synergy between all of them. This can be done by assessing the site, estimating the demand for resources and energy, supply, load capacity, etc.

Location and transportation: Projects can earn several credits in this category. Avoiding environmentally sensitive land and having to travel limited distances by vehicle will earn several points as will developing in areas with existing infrastructure, access to quality transportation, and having bicycle or green vehicle facilities.

Sustainable sites: The construction process itself can have quite an impact on the environment and be a major pollutant. As such, the site needs to be assessed for environmental contamination, protect or conserve natural areas and biodiversity, reduce light pollution, prevent waterlogging, ensure ample open space and include a place for respite, and create a detailed and accurate master site plan that adheres to the green building features.

Water efficiency: Water is a precious commodity. Its usage — both indoors and outdoors — need to be limited and reduced, tracking water consumption via water metre and using the cooling tower to control bacteria and microbes.

Energy and atmosphere: A great deal of LEED points can be earned by following the guidelines for energy consumption and atmospheric conservation. The goal is to minimize the usage of energy while getting the most out of it, by monitoring the level of energy use, developing monitoring-based procedures, optimizing energy performance and using renewable or green energy.

Materials and resources: Using bio-based materials, wood products or recycled content is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint associated with urban construction — using materials that have low levels of mercury and lead, or release limited levels of chemicals that may negatively impact the surrounding environment. Waste management is also crucial in this aspect.

Indoor environmental quality: The atmosphere of the interior is imperative to the well-being of the occupants as it is for LEED certification. Ventilation and maintaining a certain standard in air quality will lead to earning a few points; and the better the quality, the more the credits.

Lighting and thermal levels also play important roles in this index as natural lighting increases the quality of a property.

Innovation: Ingenuity and uniqueness can provide projects with a tremendous advantage in LEED certification and there are several credits to be awarded to exceptional or innovative performance. However, that can be difficult as one would have to devise strategies or features that are not addressed in the LEED green building rating system.

Regional priority: The final LEED points can be earned by developing important regions related to important geographically specific environmental, social equity and public health priorities.

Asset, emblem, brand

The green revolution is everywhere in the world today and over 2.2 million square feet of real estate becomes LEED-certified every day. Bangladesh is no stranger to this movement. The official website lists nearly 400 projects in Bangladesh with LEED certification. This goes to show you how serious the people of the country are becoming about their impact on the environment when it comes to urban construction.

The sustainable and eco-friendly nature of the environment attracts tenants and buyers who value such projects. The fact that these buildings cost less to operate, have a positive effect on the occupant, uses minimal resources and generate less waste makes such projects “high-value” and highly desirable. Such green building certification can be difficult to get, but their value and worth are incredibly high.