Can Sustainable Landscaping Help My Property Gain LEED Certification?
When you’ve made the decision to seek LEED certification for new construction or an established building, there’s no question you’re committing yourself to a comprehensive process that — in the end — will position your property as best-in-class when it comes to eco-conscious building practices and property maintenance.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), “LEED-certified buildings save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy.” That’s something that falls right in line with everything we do here at Schill Grounds Management.
Did you know sustainable landscape design and maintenance are factored into LEED's scoring system?
As the leader in sustainable landscaping, we field a number of questions about the role landscaping has in the LEED certification program.
If you have a LEED project on the horizon and want a sustainable landscape to be part of the certification process, this article will give you a little more insight into LEED certification — and ways your organization can gain credit toward certification through sustainable landscape design and maintenance.
LEED 101: What Is LEED Certification, and Why Should You Care?
LEED certification has instant name recognition, doesn’t it? But what exactly does it mean? Well, for starters, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. It's a green building certification program.
Summarized on USGBC.org: "To receive LEED certification, building projects (new or established) satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification (Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum).”
The LEED designation has become the standard in green building. Some of the benefits LEED-certified sites experience include:
- Faster occupancy rates
- Higher property values
- Tax rebates
- Zoning allowances
- Decreased utility and maintenance costs
Credits for LEED-Certified Landscape Design
From healthcare facilities to universities, LEED’s prerequisites and credits differ from project to project, so we’ve highlighted those important to sustainable landscaping — particularly in regard to the Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) and Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) ratings systems.
Stormwater Design — Quantity and Quality Control
This two-fold approach to stormwater management is all about avoiding an increase in stormwater runoff for new construction or reducing runoff by 25 percent for established sites.
One strategy for earning credit is to reduce impervious areas on a property, whether through more landscaped areas or the addition of green roofs and rainwater cisterns.
Innovative Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
With a focus on best practices for integrated pest management and sustainable landscaping, this credit is one of the most commonly pursued thanks in part to its attainability. Increasing the use of native plants and switching to smarter landscape management alternatives like bio-nutritional fertilizer and propane-powered mowers are great starting points. Goals achieved through this credit include a significant reduction in the following:
- Chemical fertilizer
- Chemical runoff
- Air pollution
- Water waste
- Landscape waste
Can you reduce your potable water use for landscape irrigation by 50 percent? Can you go without an irrigation system or replace the potable water you use with rainwater, waste water, or greywater?
Earning this credit may require a good deal of flexibility on your part, since eliminating turf grass and forgoing an irrigation system are possible requirements for it. Through grading of the landscape and an emphasis on native plant use, the credit is still within reach.
Irrigation systems aren’t completely out of the equation. If an irrigation system is a must in your landscape, it’s important that you can prove it runs efficiently.
Innovative Building Exterior and Hardscape Management
Low-impact maintenance equipment and eco-conscious snow and ice removal are two requirements needed to receive this credit. The innovative building exterior and hardscape management credit is commonly pursued because it's budget-friendly, relevant to all buildings, and relatively easy to achieve.
Similar to LEED’s prerequisites for the integrated pest management credit, this credit will require that a plan be in place to preserve a building’s grounds and significantly reduce harmful chemical input and runoff, waste water, and air pollution.
Is Your Commercial Property Ready to LEED?
Sustainable landscaping through the methods listed above is an important piece to the LEED certification puzzle. If you're interested in a LEED-certified landscape design for a new or existing commercial property, Schill can help. (Read our position paper, Corporate Sustainability and Your Bottom Line!)
Schill’s sustainable landscape design team has more than two decades of experience planning, installing, and maintaining environmentally responsible commercial, industrial, institutional, retail, and HOA landscaping projects.
Sustainable commercial landscapes reduce water demand, improve air quality, manage stormwater, and even improve human health.
LEED or no LEED, are you interested in making this the year your commercial landscape goes green and stays green? If so, give Schill Grounds Management a call at 440-652-8031, or fill out our simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.