By now, as a meeting professional, you have probably added LEED to your list of industry acronyms. You’ve seen references in the trade publications about various facilities that are LEED certified, have received marketing pieces proudly announcing that a convention center or hotel has achieved certification, and maybe even met an individual who has earned LEED Green Associate accreditation. Undoubtedly, LEED is a good thing – but do you really know what it means and, more importantly, what it means to you?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is all about sustaining the environment through building design and operation. It is an internationally recognized green building certification system created in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that provides voluntary guidelines for the development of sustainable buildings, and can apply to schools, homes, healthcare facilities and even entire neighborhoods, as well as hotels and convention centers. Currently, approximately 65 convention centers and over 200 hotels in the U.S. have attained some level of LEED certification, according to the USGBC.
There are different certification requirements for new buildings, which are designed from the ground up based on detailed and complex green standards, and for existing buildings, which implement green practices through renovation and sustainable building operations. Whether new construction or an existing building, the project must comply with a stringent list of requirements and undergo a rigorous third-party commissioning process to verify that the building has achieved its environmental goals and is performing as designed.
New buildings receive Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum LEED certification based on the number of points awarded in each of the following five categories:
- sustainable site development
- water efficiency
- energy and atmosphere
- materials and resources
- indoor environmental quality
Existing buildings are rated on their ability to maximize the efficiency of their operations while minimizing their impact on the environment. The certification rating system analyzes these major aspects of ongoing building operations:
- exterior building site maintenance programs
- water and energy use
- environmentally preferred products and practices for cleaning
- sustainable purchasing policies
- waste stream management
Interestingly, LEED involves not only brick-and-mortar projects, but is actively reviewed by nearly 13,000 USGBC organization members and over 20,000 individual members. Organizational USGBC members include companies, non-profits, professional societies and trade organizations that are highly concerned about finding ways to create a more sustainable planet. The individual membership base is comprised of people committed to forwarding the green building movement. A dedicated few individuals can take a series of exams to become accredited for their knowledge of the LEED rating system, and are recognized as a LEED Accredited Professional or a LEED Green Associate.
LEED and Your Meeting
Obviously, LEED certification is serious business, not only to the community that houses the certified building, but to the meeting planner, since using a LEED facility ensures that your organization has a leg up on reaching its sustainable meeting goals.
“LEED means a venue or facility has gone through a rigorous set of established, measurable and consistent practices or processes to meet what has been determined to be a sustainable building,” says Leslie Hasvold, CMP, manager, customer programs at Intuitive Surgical in the San Francisco Bay area. “When I book a LEED property I am assured they’re conserving water, putting excess food to good use and they adhere to an acceptable waste diversion rate. It’s measurable, consistent and something I can point to.”
According to Amanda Gourgue, CMP, chief meeting revolutionist at Meeting Revolution and one of a small number of planners who have attained the LEED Accredited Professional designation, just holding an event at a LEED certified facility or hotel means you automatically minimize the environmental impact of your meeting.
“In order to get LEED certification you have to go through a really tough process to prove that your building is lower on energy, water and other natural resources than a traditional building,” says Gourgue. “By simply holding a meeting in a LEED certified facility or hotel, the planner is doing something good for the environment and doing less harm to the planet.”
Although LEED should be a consideration when selecting a greener venue, keep in mind that there are also many environmentally friendly properties and facilities that simply haven’t made the investment in certification. “Unfortunately getting LEED certification is often cost prohibitive,” says Hasvold. “There may be an amazing boutique hotel that does much of what they need to do to be LEED certified but they can’t afford the investment of going through the process.”
In the end, LEED certification demonstrates that a property or facility has made a serious commitment to the environment and is walking the walk, not just talking the talk. However, planners shouldn’t discount properties that are not yet LEED certified; in-depth questions about a hotel or center’s sustainability procedures can reveal that many LEED approved practices are in place even though the property is not officially certified.
For more information about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and a complete list of LEED certified hotels and convention centers, please contact the U.S. Green Building Council at: http://www.usgbc.org/
To learn about LEED certified hotels and facilities in specific destinations, contact the local convention and visitors bureau (CVB). Visit empowerMINT.com, the online national sales office for CVBs, to find contact information for over 150 meeting destinations.