Get Onboard: LEED 2012

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has raised awareness of sustainable design in the building profession as well as in the public. As understanding and implementation of “green” practices and technologies grow, the USGBC continues to revisit and revise its guidelines in a process that invites input from the public. Now open for public comment, the latest revision of LEED features more rigorous guidelines as well as increased application to more building types.

KSS Architects was honored to serve as the architectural consultant to the USGBC’s Working Group charged with recommending modifications to its LEED New Construction and Existing Buildings rating systems as they apply to warehouses and distribution centers.

Sustainable design has been inherent to KSS Architects since our founding. As our portfolio began to include more industrial architecture, we found sustainable guidelines for this building typology were lacking in development and documentation. We began to research strategies to reduce the environmental impact of these large-scale buildings. From investigating big-picture issues such as project siting to in-house operations and equipment, we began to develop the foundation for these guidelines.

In 2006, we were awarded a research grant from the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) to develop a preliminary set of sustainable guidelines for industrial buildings. In anticipation of its potential implications, we paralleled the format of the LEED credit system. In 2008, we presented our study at a roundtable of regional industrial experts and later then to a committee comprising NAIOP and USGBC members.

In 2009, when we became consultants to the USGBC’s Working Group, we worked with an amazing group of professionals whose areas of expertise included logistics, manufacturing and distribution, land use development, engineering, and architecture.

The modifications we developed after months of discussion and collaboration are now available for public review and comment on the USGBC’s Web site. Targeting implementation in late 2012, LEED Building Design & Construction will consolidate guidelines for different building types into one edition. The proposed modifications will allow warehouses and distribution centers to earn points in areas where they can significantly reduce their impact on the environment. In the current LEED guidelines, for example, these projects often struggle to meet the Sustainable Sites: Development Density and Community credit, which focuses on neighborhood proximity and community access. We modified the credit to award points to industrial projects that: reuse a site previously developed for commercial or industrial use; reuse a site adjacent to other previously developed industrial sites; or are in proximity to amenities, such as intermodal hubs, seaports, and rail lines, that will reduce truck traffic, a very significant consumer of energy for this building type.

The proposed modifications to the LEED 2012 rating system will strengthen its relevance to the sustainable design of industrial buildings in a way that is meaningful and significant