Telework Programs & LEED Certification

March 27, 2014

LEED

Bottom Line Up Front: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USCGB) in 1998 to encourage green technology in building design, construction, operations, and maintenance. Certification is administered by a third party, Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), based on the technical criteria approved by the approximately 20,000 member organizations that comprise the USCBG. Formalized telework programs can help organizations with LEED Certification

Background

In the late 1990s, industry leaders started to realize the priority for defining and measuring “green” buildings. At the time, there were a growing interest green initiatives and how more energy efficient buildings could be constructed. The problem was that no industry standard existed and anyone could declare their building was green. Theoretically, an organization at the time could claim environment-friendly status simply for installing recycling bins and low flush toilets or installing solar panels. There was no criteria nor agreed upon benchmark. How could one adequately compare one organization, or building, to another?   To complicate matters, a substantial number of stakeholders including architects, engineers and designers were required to cooperate extensively throughout the development of a sustainable building project and no central body existed to bring these formerly disparate groups together in a meaningful and formal way.

In 1998, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standard was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USCGB) as a response to the green and sustainable building challenge. The newly created certification covered a wide variety of activities relating to building design, construction, operations, and maintenance. The intent was that LEED certified buildings would not only use energy more efficiently but also become healthier work environments. In turn, these healthier work environments would lead to higher productivity and improved employee welfare. Moreover, it successfully stimulated green competition among builders and raised consumer awareness further bolstering the cause and elevated awareness of the benefits. It elevated green building from a trend and transformed it into a desirable business and environmental strategy and achievement complete with ROI.

The USCGB decided that LEED certification would be administered by a third party, the Green Building Certification Institute, based on the technical criteria approved by the approximately 20,000 member organizations that comprise the USCBG. For example, LEED certification commercial buildings is based on a 110 point rating scale that evaluates the building across several categories including water and energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, innovation in operations and sustainable sites. According to the USCBG website, LEED certification is internationally recognized and stretches across 135 countries. Many local governments offer incentive programs to promote LEED certification in the form of tax breaks or credits, grants, low-interest loans, bonuses, reduced fees, or expedited permitting.

How Telework Programs Help

Telework programs can have a direct impact in achieving LEED certification. For example, in the Sustaining Sites category, points are given for “Alternative Commuting Transportation.” The requirements of this category include:

“[Reducing] the number of commuting round trips made by regular building occupants using single occupant, conventionally powered and conventionally fueled vehicles. For the purposes of this credit, alternative transportation includes at a minimum, telecommuting; compressed workweeks; mass transit; rideshare options, human-powered conveyances; carpools; vanpools; and low-emitting, fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles; walking or bicycling.”

Furthermore, by optimizing the physical workspace (e.g. moving to a hoteling or open office environment), other LEED certification categories may be impacted indirectly, such as emissions reduction, occupant comfort, innovation in operations, or building operating costs. You can find more information on LEED at the USCGB website.

Good luck,

Jason