This month, Jamie Qualk shares some of his thoughts on the LEED rating system. Jamie Qualk is a vice president at SSRCx, LLC and team leader of the Sustainable Solutions Group. He lectures in the Civil Engineering department of Vanderbilt University regarding sustainability and construction and also at Lipscomb University in the Institute for Sustainable Practice regarding renewable energy. He also blogs on ED+C’s Enviro-Blog and under Green Voices at TennesseeGreen.com
The U. S. Green Building Council and its LEED® green building rating system’s influence continues to grow and excel despite a less than ideal construction and building operations market. This ongoing success also accelerates despite a growing list of critics from within and outside the industry. While LEED is certainly not perfect, this market based tool of best practices is the finest we have to begin reducing and eventually overcoming the impacts our buildings have on the environment and the individuals that live and work in them.
As a leader in a firm that is currently working on over 100 LEED projects, my team and I regularly encounter areas where LEED could be improved. While we have our occasional frustrations, every day we see the benefits that a third party verification tool like LEED can deliver. Our portfolio of projects includes existing buildings where we’ve measured water and energy reductions of 20% and 30% respectively. Some of our new construction projects are diverting nearly all construction and demolition debris from landfills. We’ve helped clients eliminate the majority of chemicals used by cleaning teams by implementing effective green cleaning programs. While these and other wins are exciting for us and our clients, we recognize that these projects are still only onetime or one-project events.
As we apply our knowledge to more projects these wins tend to come easier or with even better results. Our team as well as our clients learn a great deal from each project as we work to overcome the unique situations that can arise through the design and construction of so many buildings. As a result, our capability to reduce building impacts only improves with time. Maybe this is one of the best things about LEED, the fact that our team and our clients are growing through the application of better habits to all projects, including those that are not pursuing LEED certification.
Vince Lombardy said, “You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing….” I couldn’t agree more and what I think we are seeing in the design, construction and operations marketplace is the continued application of better habits. When we get in to the habit of applying the best practices available to us, relating to our particular role in buildings, everyone wins.
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