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What is a green building certification?

Achieving green building certification has created a buzz in the commercial property space over recent years. It says something about your company’s commitment to the future, the planet and the wellbeing of your employees or building users. So just what is a green building certification and how do you go about obtaining it?

Luxembourg - Green certifications like LEED certification can be complex. Here's how to get started.

Assess what you have

You can start on your journey to green building certification simply by seeing what you’re working with. Whether it’s a site or building you’re acquiring, or a building in your existing portfolio, you can assess its suitability for certification, as many green building certifications can be applied at any stage of the building lifecycle.

Carry out a full assessment of the building’s current sustainability and energy and water efficiency, as well as any other category you feel is important for your particular property. From here you can set your benchmarks and goals for the future.


Choose your green building certification

There are many different green building certifications, each focusing on different criteria. Two of the best known and most frequently quoted, in particular in the US market, are the Energy Star and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. That said, those might not be the right choice for your building or industry, so it’s worth researching your options. Your choice might also depend on your budget, as different criteria require different levels of investment.

LEED certification, for example, works on a 100-point scale, with silver, gold and platinum certification available. You have to meet certain standards in the following categories: sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation by design and regional priority.

Group your goals

You may find it easiest to organise your aims in designing or updating your building into the same categories as the green building certification of your choice.

If you’re developing a building from scratch, then it should be possible to weave in things like insulation, LED lighting, smart heating and airflows, as well as various roof and wall types, into your planning and design from the outset.

If you’re acquiring a commercial property to occupy, let or re-sell, then you you may have to think outside of the box to achieve some of these bigger goals. Smaller changes – like installing rainwater tanks, organising recycling or removing single-use plastics from office life – might be easier to achieve, and may still be sufficient for certain programs, like the TRUE Zero Waste certification.

Think about cost and benefit

All changes to a building have a cost-benefit trade-off in environmental terms. For example, you may wish to change the type of glass in your windows to be more insulating. However, the energy savings these changes create could well be negated by the amount of energy actually required to implement them, especially if the existing roof or windows are actually functioning perfectly well. That said, refurbishments required for other reasons often can spur the decision to go green – a cracked window that would need to be replaced anyway, for example.

Designing or updating your building with the environment in mind can add real value, especially taken together with other future-oriented property upgrades. More than that, though, it can build your reputation and attract occupants and investors.

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