LEED Certification: Understanding Green Building through Glass and Glazing

Green. Historically recognized as a color, a synonym for money, or an adjective for a person new at something; today this 21st century buzz word is synonymous with sustainability and environmental consciousness, and it’s one of the biggest drivers behind modern corporate social responsibility.

In this sense, the concept of “green” has resulted in major changes for consumers, from higher fuel efficiency ratings of the new cars we buy, to the higher energy efficiency ratings of the homes and buildings we live and work in. The latter is due in part to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and “green building” practices. But what exactly is LEED, how are LEED points and certification achieved, and how can your business use LEED and green building practices to provide increased value to your customers?

LEED, one of the most recognized green building certification programs in the world, was originally developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED includes a rating system which focuses on environmentally responsible aspects related to the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings. LEED certified buildings are better for the environment, are energy efficient, have higher lease-up rates than conventional buildings in their markets, are healthier and safer for occupants, and can act as a physical demonstration of the values of the organizations that own and occupy them. 

No single product can achieve LEED points. Rather, LEED points are accrued through the sum whole of various products used in several categories—such as building materials, fenestration and glazing—which contribute toward LEED credits in several categories, including, but not limited to:

  • Energy and Atmosphere

Intent: Achieve increasing levels of energy performance above the prerequisite standard to reduce environmental impacts associated with excessive energy use.

Example: Types of glass used in windows, doors and skylights can be designed to meet the U-value and solar heat gain coefficient requirement standards for increased energy efficiencies.

  • Materials and Resources

Intent: Increase demand for building materials and products that are extracted and manufactured within the region, which reduces environmental impacts resulting from transportation.

Example: The distance from a glass fabrication facility to the job site can be calculated to determine whether it is within the 500-mile radius necessary to receive the Regional Materials Credit. 

  • Indoor Environmental Quality

Intent: Provide a high level of thermal, ventilation and lighting systems which can be user controlled to promote the productivity, comfort and well-being of building occupants.

Example: Dynamic switchable glasses installed in the building envelope so that a minimum Daylight Factor of 2 percent is achieved in 75 percent of all space occupied for critical visual tasks.

In today’s modern age of mass production, where a focus on reduced costs often takes precedent over quality standards, the fundamental principles behind LEED should be embraced, as the benefits and return on investment behind them are both measurable and real, as is the increased value it bestows upon our industry.

To learn more about LEED, visit new.usgbc.org/leed.

Pete deGorter is vice president of DeGorter Inc. Contact him at pete@degorter.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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