Taking the LEED
Long-awaited "green" guidelines for commercial interiors are coming to an office building near you
Laura Fisher Kaiser -- Interior Design, 5/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
When the NeoCon Worlds Trade Fair opens in Chicago on June 14, the Merchandise Mart is sure to be buzzing about a set of guidelines expected to effect profound changes in our industry. Right after NeoCon, the U.S. Green Building Council will be wrapping up the public-comment period for LEED-CI, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program's new rating system for commercial interiors. Balloting will take place in the fall, with the final version of LEED-CI to be released shortly thereafter.
Addressing the specifics of tenant spaces primarily in office and institutional buildings, LEED-CI will be part of a comprehensive suite of tools intended to promote the sustainable design, construction, and operation of tenant-improvement projects—a market 16 times larger than that for new construction. "This is a major step forward," says Peter Templeton, deputy director of LEED and international programs at the nonprofit USGBC, a coalition of 4,300 building owners and developers; architecture, design, and engineering firms; contractors and builders; manufacturers; environmental organizations and academic institutions; and local, state, and federal government.
"In the past few years, we've seen a pent-up demand for a rating system for commercial interiors," says Penny Bonda, chair of the LEED-CI committee and director of environmental communications for EnvironDesign Works. "It used to be all but impossible for a CI project that wasn't new construction to get a LEED rating. Finally, we'll have a great tool for the tenant, the landlord, and the design team of commercial fit-outs."
On Tuesday, June 15, NeoCon attendees will be invited to Chicago's historic Monadnock Building for a tour of a LEED-CI pilot project, Farr Associates Architecture and Urban Design. The tour will highlight guideline applications to tenant spaces, sustainable strategies for historic buildings, and conflicts between historic appearance and energy efficiency—analyzing the use of green materials and solutions along the way.
Farr Associates is among 100-plus participants to register for LEED-CI since 2002—a group whose diversity in scope, geography, market segment, and budget aims to elicit the best possible feedback. To improve the process, USGBC has streamlined certain aspects of administration and documentation. The committee also hopes to update usgbc.org, so designers could add notes and other information. "At the end, you'll just press the 'submit' button," says Templeton.
Administrative details aside, the LEED-CI pilot has essentially the same DNA as four-year-old LEED-NC, which recently certified its 100th new commercial building, and LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB), a pilot launched this year. (LEED-CS, a companion system that focuses on building core and shell, is being piloted concurrently.) Where the new ratings differ is in their focus on office and institutional tenants.
LEED-CI evaluates greenness in five defined categories: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality. The latter two categories are destined to make the biggest impact. Materials and resources emphasizes the sustainable, rapidly renewable, or bio-based; indoor environmental quality highlights concerns that have historically been overlooked. "Most buildings have windows, but then people put up panels and walls that block the daylight. LEED-CI will pay more attention to the need of human beings to see the outdoors," says pilot coordinator Keith Winn.
Under LEED-CI, interiors that earn 40 percent of the total points available are awarded a certified plaque. A silver rating requires 50 percent, gold 60 percent, and platinum 80 percent. A project can also earn bonus points recognizing design and process innovation.
Another pilot project, the Wild Goose restaurant on the California shore of Lake Tahoe, has turned the pursuit of a LEED-CI silver certification into marketing spin. East West Partners, the resort developer behind the Wild Goose, is even displaying samples of sustainable woods and recycled-denim insulation in the lobby. "Customers can't actually see all of the green things we've done. But when people find out, they talk. The next thing you know, they're telling stories for you," says Aaron Revere, East West Partners director of environmental initiatives.
Aaron Revere and Penny Bonda's business cards offer their own proof of LEED's increasing impact on the corporate ladder as well as the environment. A Director of Environmental Something is fast becoming indispensable for companies proving their ecological bona fides.