If you care about the impact your commercial property makes on the environment and the health of the people who work in and visit your property, LEED certification is worth considering.
While much of LEED certification involves the construction of a building, “Don’t forget about the outside, too,” says Shelley Russell (pictured), landscape designer at Level Green Landscaping. Russell is trained in LEED certification, earning a LEED Green Associate designation.
“We can help you get more points so you can achieve a higher level, maybe move from Platinum to Gold,” she says.
What is she talking about?
Here’s a closer look at why LEED certification matters for your commercial property — and how landscaping can help you get there.
What is LEED Certification?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to set a benchmark for design, construction and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.
LEED certification verifies that a building was designed and built using strategies friendly to the environment and to human health, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Why LEED Certification Matters
LEED certification automatically tells people you care about environmental and human health, and you’ve taken substantial steps to improve your property.
LEED certified buildings use less energy, which means lower utility bills. There are tax breaks for LEED properties. And they’re more appealing to potential tenants.
“There are definitely bragging rights,” Russell says. “It’s a feather in your cap to be LEED certified.”
How Does LEED Certification Work?
In order for a building to earn a LEED certification rating (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum), the space has to include a series of recommended “green” characteristics. Each element earns points. It takes a minimum of 40 points to earn certification.
How Your Landscaping Company Can Help
Landscape design and maintenance are factored into the scoring system used for LEED certification. Of those 40 required points, a number of them are landscape-related, and your landscape company can help you earn them.
Russell shares some of the ways Level Green Landscaping can help you achieve LEED certification:
Use Less Water
“Water usage is a big part of LEED,” Russell says. “You’ll want to think about getting rid of your turf. Not only does it require a lot of water, but it needs a lot of fertilizer and herbicides too.”
How to do it?
Use Native Plants
Native plants automatically love living on your property. That means they need less care — including less water. They naturally resist diseases and pests. They provide berries, nuts and seeds for animals and nectar for hummingbirds and insects.
Russell suggests replacing turf with beautiful native ornamental grasses such as Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama Grass), Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), or Sporobolus heterolepsis (Prairie Dropseed.)
Less Turf Means Less Mowing
“Another reason to replace turf with native plants is that you reduce the need for mowers,” Russell says. “Removing turf reduces emissions from gas mowers, blowers and weed whackers and is a huge step in reducing your property’s carbon footprint.”
Consider A Green Roof
A green roof is covered or partially covered with growing plants.
“They absorb a lot of the heat in the summer, so you use less air conditioning, and less energy, inside,” Russell says. “It also helps absorb water, so you have less runoff.”
Managing stormwater runoff is a key element of LEED landscaping.
Level Green experts can help with a variety of solutions:
Retention Or Detention Ponds
Retention ponds are pools of water that fluctuate in response to rain and runoff. They collect water and release it slowly, at a nice, easy rate that prevents flooding or erosion.
Detention ponds are usually dry, except when excess rain or melted snow fill them up. They’re designed to hold water temporarily, then slowly drain it to another location.
Bioswales are more decorative, with landscaping that looks nice while they handle excess water. Gently sloped troughs, they’re planted with plants and flowers, providing a path for water to run through slowly and efficiently.
The plants and soil in the bioswale clean the runoff before it enters the water table.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems
One way to prevent excess water on your property is to capture it — then reuse it. Commercial properties like apartment buildings, shopping centers and office buildings, with their often large, flat roofs, are great for rainwater harvesting.
When rain falls onto a roof, a system of gutters and pipes channels it and stores it. Use it to flush toilets, do laundry, water the property, wash vehicles.
Don't Care About LEED Certification?
It isn't a goal for everyone. But the landscaping practices that help achieve LEED certification are beneficial, even if you don't want the designation.
“A lot of commercial properties want to make a less significant footprint,” Russell says, “even if they’re not pursuing LEED certification. These practices use less energy, so your bills will go down.”
Let Level Green Help You Achieve LEED
Russell knows why LEED certification matters, and has the training to help you design a LEED-friendly landscape. Meanwhile, the other experts at Level Green Landscaping have the skills and knowledge to carry out the plans, from installing drought-tolerant plants to creating green roofs to installing bioswales or rainwater harvesting systems.
If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.
Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.
We’d love to hear from you.