Avoid post-certification LEED slump

When an owner’s project team finally gets the notification from the USGBC, “Congratulations — your project has achieved LEED EBOM certification,” it’s a very exciting and gratifying moment. All the hard work has paid off and not only have you achieved the goal of getting certified, but the whole team, and the tenants, know that project is being well run.

The question is: now what? How do you continue to build on the work the team has done and avoid the post-certification slump? Understanding how to leverage LEED momentum is key to long-term success and eventual LEED EBOM re-certification.

Keep People Informed

The number one thing building management should do to avoid the post-LEED slump is keep people informed about the successes and challenges of maintaining the momentum of the green building plan. Occupant behavior can significantly impact whether or not your building continues to achieve the performance goals you established when you earned your certification.

Some companies publish a quarterly newsletter for the staff and the building’s tenants to keep everyone informed on how the building is performing and the ongoing positive impact of the LEED programs. This could also include sustainability objectives that aren’t necessarily LEED-based, such as recycling e-waste, and encouraging people to get involved in creating a better working environment.

A newsletter can reinforce the importance of new behaviors. It could include reminders, such as turning off the lights when you leave a room, or to lower the shades in the summer when the sun is the brightest to conserve energy in air conditioning the building. Some companies enable individuals to monitor how much energy their workstations are using.

Solicit New Ideas

To keep the momentum and enthusiasm going, consider forming a committee consisting of building staff and tenants to share ideas about how to maintain their healthy and energy efficient building to further the building’s LEED goals. Empowering those who are most interested in sustainability can help create a culture that is open to new ideas and positive changes.

Part of the process is to continue setting new goals that building staff can strive for. Keep reviewing your operations and maintenance programs to identify where you can make improvements. Make sure that these reviews happen regularly and incorporate sustainability into everyone’s job description and make it part of overall performance.

There are simple non-LEED projects that can also be implemented. These include:

  • Increasing interior landscaping to clean the air and bring the outdoors inside
  • Implementing a composting program for food waste disposal
  • Holding blub, e-waste, and battery monthly recycling days. Encourage people to also bring in items from home. Use a vendor to collect and properly dispose of all the recycled items.
  • Starting a bike-share program so that people can run errands close to the office without driving

Budget for LEED Upgrades

Following LEED certification, keep up the momentum by identifying new projects and budgeting for what’s next. The project team should organize an “after actions” meeting for a detailed review of the credits, or aspects of the credits, that were unavailable during the LEED certification process. This can help the team create a list of new goals and outline the resources needed to execute them.

For example, teams don’t usually install a new green roof on an old building to achieve the LEED credit. But maybe the roof is due to be replaced in the next five years. In that case, the team can establish a program to study the possible cost/benefit of a green or white roof.

Teams will also likely have energy efficiency options that were identified during the initial certification but weren’t implemented because of schedule or budget constraints. These can be included in the budget for next year.

One of the most powerful arguments for continuing a strong sustainability program after LEED certification is that projects can realize operational cost savings through ongoing energy reduction and also prepare for the re-certification process.

In order to tie the cost savings to the sustainability efforts, the team should make sure energy usage and cost reductions are monitored on a regular basis. In many cases, these savings can be used to further invest in sustainable programs.

It should be the goal of every owner to continue investing in the performance of their building, not only for the cost savings but to continue to maintain a healthy building and comfortable, satisfied occupants.

Rachel Sowards is a Practice Area Manager, LEED® AP, with Paladino DC, the East Coast office of Paladino and Company.

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