LEED, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way, Part 1

By Brian E. Huff

This is a two-part article about the LEED initiative. Read Part 2 in the next issue.

I recently attended a construction kickoff meeting for a well-known educational institution’s first new building in many years.  At the table in the construction trailer were the normal complement of project management, architectural, landscape, structural, IT, and acoustical consultants, as well as the school’s facilities rep.  The talk was the usual – meeting schedules, budgets, code compliance, document protocol, etc.  This went on for over an hour until the talk turned to LEED goals.

If you’re not familiar with LEED, it is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System™, a national benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings, started in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council.  It’s a voluntary certification program for building owners and architects to improve performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:

·    sustainable site development

·    water savings

·    energy efficiency

·    materials selection

·    indoor environmental quality

Before you envision oddball residential structures made from old tires with grass roofs and solar panels, you might want to familiarize yourself and your organization with this initiative because the following projects are a small sampling of the thousands of projects currently LEED registered:

Currently, virtually all mass-market electronics manufacturers participate in the U.S. ENERGY STAR program:http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm

However, with the exception of some flat-panel displays, there are few Pro AV products, and no video projectors on the market that are ENERGY STAR compliant.  Apparently this is because ENERGY STAR hasn’t gotten around to defining specifications for projectors yet. 

ENERGY STAR’s oversight is split between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept. of Energy, and projectors will likely fall under the EPA’s purview.  The EPA has been diligently working on more specifications for electronics, so it’s only a matter of time before this fast-growing product segment is eligible for the ENERGY STAR logo.

·    The new World Trade Center, including the Freedom Tower, World Trade Center Office Towers 2, 3, and 4, as well as the World Trade Center Memorial and Memorial Museum.

·    Clearview Elementary School, Hanover, PA

·    Herman Miller Marketplace, Zeeland, MI

·    Sabre Corporate Campus, Southlake, TX

·    Rinker Hall at the University of Florida

·    Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, WA

·    Genzyme Center, Corporate Headquarters, Cambridge, MA

These sample projects show that LEED certification is being sought by all types of owners, public and private, and in several market verticals that our industry tracks, such as educational, government, corporate, performance, and retail.  In response to this trend, the number of LEED certified professionals in architecture and construction has increased from about 2,400 in 2002 to 24,000 in 2006.  In 2000, when the LEED program was launched, the USGBC registered 46 buildings and certified 13.  By March of 2006, over 3,000 buildings were registered and nearly 400 have completed certification.

When you consider that the built environment will double in size in the next 50 years, and that buildings consume 12% of water, 70% of electricity, and 39% of all energy used in the U.S., as well as 40% of all raw materials worldwide, you can understand why this organization was created, and why LEED certification is getting so much attention from building owners.  And it’s not just about reducing raw material consumption; it’s about reducing operating costs and improving occupant health and productivity by constructing buildings that are cleaner, brighter, and more energy efficient.

And this is where it gets interesting to us: With the exception of AMX, Epson and Draper, the AV industry has very few manufacturers or contractors with a LEED certified professional on staff, and InfoComm, NSCA, and CES do not have any committees focused on LEED.  Considering that AV costs for a large building project can run well into seven digits, and that our equipment consumes millions of kilowatt hours per year, this seems like a major blind spot and an incredible opportunity for forward-thinking companies. 

If you’re a pragmatist like me, you might be saying to yourself – so what?   How would promoting energy-efficient products or having a LEED certified professional on staff bring any more business in the door of my company?  Well read on, because here’s the logic:

Of course the architect and the owner want to get their project LEED certified for a variety of compelling reasons.  First, if the owner has submitted grants applications for any state or federal funding, it may be treated more favorably than a typical project.  Second, LEED is a high-visibility promotional tool for the organization, in terms of attracting donors or contributions, enhancing community relations, and presenting an eco-friendly profile to the world.  This has made architects and builders anxious to show clients that they are LEED experts and have a large “green building” portfolio.

In order to earn certification, a building must meet certain prerequisites and performance benchmarks (“credits”)

More on certification in Part 2.


Brian E. Huff, CTS-D has over 24 years of experience designing and specifying audiovisual systems for education, corporate, and government clients.  Brian holds a High Technology MBA from Northeastern University, is an ICIA CTS-D and a member of AES and SMPTE. 

He can be contacted directly at (610) 476-1734.