The real estate industry needs a common vocabulary for sustainability, and LEED has provided that common language for more than twenty years. If you are an architect, developer, or real estate owner/operator who is frustrated with LEED and its promises, it’s possible that a question will help you understand what went wrong:

Were our core values used to drive sustainability strategies, or did LEED drive them?

Rating systems like LEED, WELL, Living Building Challenge, and ENERGY STAR are intended to measure how design and construction decisions impacted environmental issues – but certainly not to drive those decisions.

The developer/owner’s core values should be at the heart of any project’s design and construction strategy, and the moment you invest in features to get LEED points, something has gone wrong. If you pay for a Monitoring and Verification Plan that will never be put into practice; if you install a bike rack on a site that isn’t bike commuter-friendly; if you pay for power offsets to grab an extra point – the rating system is being misused and the tail is wagging the dog.

The surprisingly radical idea that owner core values – rather than the rating system – should drive sustainability strategies – needs to be better understood across our industry.

This is why we updated Paladino’s e-book about values-driven sustainability. We’ve developed and tested a framework for simply and efficiently documenting owner core values over two decades. The core values framework, called PLUS (Performance Layer Under Sustainability) makes it easy for project teams to confirm owner and project team values across four dimensions: Growth, Efficiency, Wellness, and Impact. By charting the team’s goals along these dimensions, the project team can prioritize sustainability strategies that serve the owner’s core values rather than the rating system scorecard.

It’s remarkable how much has changed since 2015 when the PLUS e-book was first released. Political, economic, ecologic, and sociographic shifts have been significant and fast-moving. It was clear to our team that we needed to take another look at the premise of the PLUS concept.

It’s just as remarkable how much hasn’t changed since 2015. Developers, architects, contractors, and real estate owners still face pressure to meet local sustainability and resilience standards; REITs and Fortune Brands still face investor pressure to run socially responsible businesses; employees and customers still evaluate the fit between their spending habits and a brands’ behavior; and developers still scrutinize their investments to maximize value and ROI.

Core Values Framework and e-book download

The new and updated e-book is now available, and we recommend that you download it and read it before you begin your next real estate project.

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