LEED and Sustainable Landscaping

Premier Plaza collects rainwater for outdoor irrigation | SIG HeadquartersIf you’ve made the decision to pursue LEED certification for a new or established building, you’re committed to an ongoing eco-conscious process. Sustainable landscaping is an essential component of LEED certification under the Sustainable Sites credit category. Sustainable Sites allows projects to earn points in how their landscape is sustainably designed and maintained from  rainwater management, the equipment used to clean the building exterior and hardscape, to protecting and restoring habitat.

LEED certified buildings are best-in-class, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Once certified, your building will positively impact occupants’ health and wellness, improve resource efficiency, and help save money. Sustainable Investment Group’s (SIG) LEED Consulting can help you incorporate sustainable landscaping into your LEED project now.

Why LEED Landscaping Points Matter

Knowing that your building makes the best use of resources is the socially responsible, right thing to do. In addition, LEED certification benefits your bottom line:

  • LEED Certification is the green building standard, and some of the many benefits to owning and operating a LEED certified commercial property include: 1) faster, better occupancy rates; 2) tax rebates; 3) improved property values; 4) lower utility/maintenance costs; and 5) zoning allowances.
  • The credits for your commercial building’s LEED certified landscape design may differ according to the type of property. For instance, the LEED ratings systems differ a bit between a university campus and a medical center.

Here’s why LEED landscaping points matter. Let’s say you want to get your existing commercial building LEED certified. If you’re in the planning stages, you might be surprised to learn that an experienced LEED commercial landscaping consultant can help you get a 37-1/2 percent jump on getting certified under EBOM (LEED Existing Buildings and Operations and Maintenance)! That is, you need 40 points to qualify, and the right LEED landscaping consultant can make sure you follow the LEED process and submit the proper documentation to get 15 landscaping points.

Most landscape architects aren’t familiar with LEED landscaping points or how to implement sustainable landscape design and maintenance as part of the LEED certification project. SIG brings each facet of your LEED project in-house. Once engaged, you earn a first point towards LEED certification by engaging LEED certified professionals.

LEED Landscaping Scoring System for Commercial Buildings

Understanding the LEED Landscaping Points system can be a challenging task. An experienced LEED consulting firm can guide the process and manage the steps, including:

  • Building Exterior & Hardscape Management Plan: To earn this credit (1 point), you must prepare a written plan concerning the building’s exterior will be maintained. For instance, you must identify the chemicals used to clean hardscapes or the ice melt used, if appropriate.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Erosion Control & Landscape Management Plan: As above, you must prepare a written plan concerning pest, landscape management, and building site erosion. For instance, using native plants, propane-powered grass mowers, and bio-nutritional fertilizers might help you earn this credit (1 point). Reducing pesticides, landscape waste, chemical fertilizers, water waste, air pollution, and chemical runoff are additional items to consider.
  • Site Development, Protect or Restore an Open Habitat: The LEED Landscaping Point requirements continue to increase in complexity. To earn this credit (1 point), you might document native/adaptive green area you have, replace hardscapes with appropriate green space, convert sod/non-natives to an approved green area, or create an offsite green space.
  • Stormwater Quality Control: Stormwater quantity and quality control, and stormwater design, are essential in the LEED Landscaping point system. To earn the stormwater quality control point, it’s essential to reduce the property’s impervious areas. You must use/add bioswales, green roofs, cisterns or other strategies to collect and keep rainwater on the site. In addition, the water harvester by achieving this credit may be used to get points and other credits as well.
  • Heat Island Reduction: To capture the non-roof credit, you must decrease heat emanating from hardscapes and/or parking areas. You might decrease heat radiation by planting native vegetation or trees, among others. To add the roof credit, you must identify ways to reduce heat radiation reflected from the building’s roof. Installing a rooftop garden or a green roof system may be ideal. Since not all commercial buildings are designed to support added roof-top weight, a LEED consulting firm can present cost-effective alternatives.
  • Water Performance Measurement: It’s possible to capture two points in this measurement if you measure multiple water performance systems. You must meter potable water usage used inside the building and as part of the landscape design and maintenance process.
  • Water-Efficient Landscaping: Consider how to reduce potable water used in landscape irrigation or how to eliminate municipal water with well water, rain water, stream-fed pond water, greywater, and/or wastewater to achieve this credit. Improved irrigation system efficiency, modified landscape (such as removal of turf grass), and native plantings can help you capture from 1 – 5 LEED landscape points.

LEED Certification and LEED Landscaping Points

We’ve explored just a few of the ways your LEED consulting firm can help you earn LEED Landscaping points. Your LEED project is unique, and not all credits will make sense in every situation. Cost and feasibility of implementation are always important considerations. By engaging SIG early in the LEED certification process, our consultants select goals that best suit your needs and vision.

If you’re considering LEED certification, a LEED certified landscape design and maintenance plan for your eco-responsible industrial, retail, commercial, or institutional property makes good financial sense. Call Michael Cichetti at Sustainable Investment Group (404-343-3835) now.

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