Sustainability's spread shows no signs of slowing. There's no denying that sustainable building practices and the value of green building expertise are on the rise. More than 13.8 billion square feet of building space is now certified some level of LEED, and the U.S. Green Building Council estimates that this year 40 to 48 percent of new nonresidential construction will be green.
While sustainable buildings and green management practices are spreading, there are still some common myths about what it means to manage a LEED (or Leadership in Energy and Environment Desing) certified building. Here are a few top myths—and why they're so wrong.
Myth: LEED mostly matters for new construction.
Truth: Retrofit, thy name is LEED.
New construction might get most of the media attention, but retrofits make up a whopping 61 percent of all construction projects. And it's estimated that building owners and managers will spend some $960 billion over the next eight years on projects to make their built infrastructure more sustainable, according to Navigant Research. That includes things like retrofitting facilities with better ventilation and air conditioning, more energy-efficient heating and upgrading existing lighting and plumbing fixtures.
Myth: LEED certification is limited to physical buildings.
Truth: Facility managers can earn LEED cred too.
The USGBC offers the LEED AP credential to facility managers and building owners who have passed a rigorous test, proving their knowledge of sustainable practices and strategies. There are five different specialties within the AP credential, but the LEED AP O+M will appeal most to facility managers. Just like with buildings, getting certified isn't a once-and-done proposition: To maintain your status, you'll have to earn ongoing credits, through project experience, volunteering, taking courses or writing articles.
Myth: Factories just can't be green.
Truth: LEED assesses a facility in context.
No matter which way you slice it, a factory with a robust manufacturing floor is likely to use more energy and water and expel more waste than, say, a small commercial office building. But that doesn't mean LEED is off the table for factories. Instead, the USGBC uses different standards and scales for different industries and purposes. When Unilever set out to achieve LEED, it was able to radically rethink its waste management and supply chain operations, creating a factory that's effectively zero-waste. So while getting an existing building up to LEED standards might be tough in any sector, facility managers can take heart that it's not impossible—even if they're in an energy-intensive sector like manufacturing.
Myth: Managing LEED programs is a once-and-done task.
Truth: It can be easy—if you have the right system in place.
Keeping track of LEED programs in a traditional database can be a logistical nightmare. But facility managers who rely on more sophisticated systems, such as Facility Dude's UtilityTrack, have found that monitoring LEED programs is relatively straightforward. The trick is to find a tool that's going to allow you to effortlessly track and monitor the necessary projects and benchmarks.