Economy & Jobs

Is Getting LEED Certified a Good Idea for Your Work Building?

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Have you considered making your business’s buildings more environmentally efficient? Green building and energy-efficient renovations are popular residential construction topics, but they’re also issues that affect workplaces. Getting a commercial or retail property LEED certified is one way to show your business’s commitment to energy efficiency. However, there are several steps and costs involved. Here’s what you need to know about LEED certification and business premises.

What Does LEED Certified Mean?

The acronym LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and in the United States it’s granted by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This certification signifies that a building meets certain standards in areas such as building materials, interior environmental quality, and energy efficiency. Buildings and/or projects that are LEED compliant earn points for achieving defined prerequisites, ultimately meeting one of four LEED standards: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. Businesses operating in LEED-certified buildings or working toward LEED certification for various projects show their clients, communities, and the public at large that they’re committed to future energy efficiency in their operations.

Note: USGBC says that LEED for existing buildings must meet a baseline minimum energy efficiency via the Energy Star program.

Does LEED Certification Save Companies Money?

While the U.S. Green Building Council states on its website that LEED-certified buildings “save money and resources,” how long it takes to realize the financial savings resulting from energy efficiency is not clear. However, working toward LEED certification may allow your business to qualify for state and regional incentives. These could include tax credits, municipal permit fee reductions or waivers, grants, access to revolving loans, or even free planning and marketing assistance.

In addition, recent studies show that as LEED-certified buildings become more energy efficient, energy costs do drop. The 2015 U.S. Green Building Economic Impact Study forecasts that by the end of 2018, LEED building projects will save a whopping $2.4 billion in energy costs, according to the USGBC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter. This translates to reduced operating costs for entrepreneurs, although business owners must also take into account the upfront costs of constructing or upgrading to an energy-efficient, LEED-compliant building.

The American Institute of Architects offers additional information on state and local incentives applicable to businesses aiming for LEED certification in the workplace.

Other Energy Changes That Can Help Your Business Save Money

Even if LEED certification isn’t in the cards for your business, you may be able to realize cost and energy savings by making other changes. These include installing energy-efficient lightbulbs and adjusting your office or shop thermostats to save on heating and cooling. It may also include rearranging workspaces to maximize the use of natural light, reducing energy consumption, and ensuring windows, doors, and pipes are well insulated and/or caulked to reduce lost energy.

Though there are initial costs and possibly at least short-term financial obligations for a work building to meet LEED-certification requirements, in the long term it’s reasonable to assume working toward the certification will reduce a business’s energy consumption and costs. Although the environmental benefits of LEED certification are apparent, each business’s financial and workplace situation is different. Review the information on the U.S. Green Building Council website, look at the financial incentives available in your area, and think about your long-term plans for the business before making a decision.

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Sarita Harbour is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and green living. As a former financial adviser with over a decade of banking experience, she has been writing for American and Canadian digital audiences for the past three years. Her work is featured regularly on Capital One's Spark Business IQ, Forbes, and The Lending Tree, and also appears on sites such as Fox News, Yahoo! Homes, Bob Vila, Equifax Insights for Small Business, and Intuit Small Business. Sarita graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied Psychology and Computer Science, and she holds the Personal Financial Planning designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers. Sarita is also a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She lives with her family in an off-the-grid cabin outside of Yellowknife, NWT.