LEED Certified Warehouses

warehouse LEED building

LEED certification programs have gotten a slow start in Europe but have the idea has quickly caught on thanks to consumer pressure and new regulations regarding environmental preservation. The LEED certification system is still in its infancy in most of Europe but new construction activities are taking their cues from North America in making their buildings LEED friendly as a way to conserve energy and improve lifecycle functions. Since its inception the idea spread quickly to other continents.

Even without formal certification in place in Europe (the actual certification will be ready by the end of 2015) the guidelines for creating warehouses and other properties that are environmentally friendly and efficient are in place and are very easy to adapt especially in new construction activity. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is available from the US based group on a global level.

A Prime Example

In 2014 Vasakronan was the first big business in Europe to receive LEED certification for a majority of their properties. According to an article published on the Vasakronan website CEO Fredrik Wirdenius had to say the following:

“In 2014, we upped the tempo considerably with the decision to obtain LEED certification for our entire existing property stock, and we are very proud to be the first company in Europe that has successfully certified 48 existing buildings using volume certification, which has saved us both time and money,”

Certification for their environmental efforts has strengthened Vasakronans business advantage. Since the company has been able to reduce the amount of energy its properties use by about 30% it has easily saved SEK 100 million in costs.

Wirdenius went on to say:

“The business advantages are obvious. Environmental certification at this level is proof that also older existing buildings can be competitively strong against new ones, which of course always have environmental certification. It gives us an advantage against our competitors and it raises the value or our property portfolio,”

The environmental efforts have paid off in more than one way for this company. In addition to the costs savings and improved public perception the company was the first in the world to issue green corporate bonds.

Wirdenius had this to say about the companies additional benefit of the green bond issue:

“Yes, they quickly become fully subscribed. The green bonds provide the financial market with new opportunities while helping us expand our investment base. They also help bring about a more sustainable development of society. So, everybody wins! ”

The bonds helped to offset the costs and improve the surrounding areas.

With LEED there is no way for any organization to lose. It is an easy way to quickly cut costs and to improve public perception of any industry. Recent studies have shown that companies that are perceived as being environmentally responsible enjoy a high trust rating from consumers.

It would stand to reason that an organization that is concerned about their environmental impact and conserving energy would also be concerned about the well-being of the consumers that they serve.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to design or retrofit a warehouse to make it energy efficient and meet the criteria for LEED certification.

What is LEED?

LEED is now a global certification process that was launched by the United States in 1998. The Green Building Council set the parameters for what certification would require. Those parameters have changed and are typically adjusted.

In the US there are tax incentives and other benefits to building a LEED certified building. The program has come a long way. There are over 65,000 projects (commercial in nature) that are working toward becoming LEED certified. Buildings earn points to achieve the different levels of certification.

There are 4 levels of certification. There is valuable economic benefits for being LEED certified. Sweden has the Sweden Green Building Council that has taking the helm for the LEED program for Europe and has been working on adapting the conditions for the European market.

Steps to Certification

Each step that is taking toward the LEED standards earn the organization points towards the different levels of certification. The levels start out at “certified” than move up to chain to “silver”, “gold” and “platinum”.

It is actually easier to start on the certification process with new construction but retrofitting existing warehouses is also possible with a little planning, commitment and ingenuity.

We will look at the new construction first than follow up with some ideas for older buildings that can be retrofitted to improve their energy consumption.

There are 4 main areas that LEED certification is concerned with:

  1. Building design and construction
  2. Interior design and construction
  3. Operation and maintenance
  4. Area development

Building design and construction plays an important role in earning LEED credits. The materials that are used in the construction play a role. Can you use renewable materials?

Can you source the materials from a supplier that uses environmentally friendly practices? The position that the building faces (N, S, E ,W), how high it is, the type of windows that are used all count when it comes to LEED certification.

The list does seem endless when it comes to the opportunity to earn points. For example a warehouse design that facilitates the use of natural lighting opportunities is going to get high marks because typically warehouse and DC lighting accounts for about 30% of the overall energy use.

A warehouse that is conscious of the size of its parking lot will also get points because asphalt and other paving materials are bad for the environment and reducing the size of the footprint of the building is important in maintaining a safe haven for nature.

The operation and maintenance of the building will also be a factor in determining the number of credits earned. For example a net zero building that depends on alternative power sources like solar power, skylights, windows that are high up to allow natural light to flood in all point to an efficient operating costs. Buildings that are structured to require little to no maintenance are also awarded credits.

Warehouses and distribution centers use energy differently than other like sized buildings that are occupied with more people that are using the space in another way so we have to look to other arenas to reduce the carbon footprint.

Building an energy conscious distribution center or warehouse really starts with choosing the right location. One of the biggest “energy costs” regarding a warehouse is not the energy that is being used inside the building but the energy that it takes to transport the goods (and yes that is part of the carbon footprint).

Choosing a central location that is easily accessible for freight transport will reduce the organizations carbon footprint and help earn some points as well. If you are working with a new build choose your location carefully and thoughtfully.

New construction opens up a world of possibilities to efficiently conserve energy, decide where the location will be and to use better building materials. Older warehouses do not afford the same options but there are changes that can be made that can make the property far more efficient and earn some credits.

High Volume Low Speed Fans

Installing HVLS fans can shave anywhere from 12% to 50% off energy costs in a warehouse in older structures. Networking several fans with one central control location can help to keep the climate in the warehouse comfortable for employees and safe for materials that are stored there. This is a simple step that can improve energy efficiency greatly reduce costs and help to earn some LEED credits.

What You Do On the Inside

LEED certification is not only wrapped up in building green or making changes to how you use energy it is also wrapped up in what kind of materials you are using in the warehouse. How good is your packaging? Is it recyclable? Is it reusable? Where is it sourced from?

These things all matter if you want your warehouse to be recognized as a leader in the energy conservation movement. What do you do with your waste? These all fall under the operations header and all of these activities make a difference.

Packaging, storage, transportation are all considerations when it comes to LEED certification programs to earn credits. Moving toward a greener operation is imperative not only for the environment but also for public perception of your firm.

The public is demanding greener solutions from industries because of the climate changes and damage to the environment. Getting on board with a LEED certification for your warehouse is not only good for the environment but it is going to be good for your business.

Whether it is a matter of changing your lighting in the warehouse, adding some fans and switching out your packaging options or your firm is ready to start a new build getting the recognition for being an entity that cares about the environment will go a long way in public perception of your firm.