“Scott, do I need to go LEED?”
If I had a dollar for every time one of our clients posed that question, in a programming meeting, at a cocktail party or even halfway through a build-out … well, let’s just say there would be a lot more “green” in my pocket.
However, it’s a subject I never tire of talking about, and one that is increasingly relevant to landlords and tenants here in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. That’s because eco-friendly design has become less of a novelty and more of an expectation. Most companies want to be green, but each may have its own unique reasons for doing so.
LEED accreditation is valuable—it has undoubtedly brought the green movement to the next level and set the bar high—but it does involve a lengthy commissioning and maintenance process. Many companies desire a sustainable office environment, whether for recruitment and retention, long-term cost savings or simply because it’s the right thing to do, but time pressures and rapid expansion make it difficult to apply for certified LEED status. Technology and social media firms, with the exception of larger ones such as LinkedIn or Facebook, fit this bill, and they often boast the same type of green design seen at the LEED level, but without the LEED stamp of approval.
Though that may be the case, the commercial real estate world is constantly buzzing about the debate of green vs. LEED. One can indeed achieve LEED status at a lower cost—you don’t necessarily need to go to the higher Gold or Platinum levels. Even if you don’t seek certification, there are many ways to be green. With so many stylish, affordable and, yes, sustainable products on the market these days, from recycled carpets and glass to low-emissions paint, it is easier than ever to be kind to the environment. Sometimes it happens almost organically—a phenomenon I call “naturally green.”
Some landlords are even getting in on the action, opting to obtain certification for the entire building, with an infrastructure that meets those standards. The Empire State Building is an excellent example. A building-wide standard such as the one at this iconic building means there are specific rules and regulations that each tenant needs to adhere to when designing its interior space. This presents both a challenge to the tenants and an opportunity to be that much more sustainable.
So what will the future hold? My feeling is that, before long, green building will be the standard for everyone, so we should all get used to it! Even LEED will change and evolve, giving way to a whole new set of parameters. For instance, in England, stringent standards to protect the environment are the law. The United States may follow suit before long, enacting laws rather than options.
For now, the answer to my question is that each company needs to assess what works best for its own employees, timeline and budget. Working alongside an architect, the process can be streamlined, and a LEED accreditation, if that’s what works best, can be blended in as part of the schedule and base work. My final prediction? In 10 or 20 years, the term LEED may not even exist—there may be a different name for it altogether—but the sustainable character of buildings and office spaces will most certainly stand the test of time.