Beyond Energy and Water – The Value of LEED
Some critics have charged that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED program does not deliver on the energy and water savings claimed by the recipients of certification. While in some cases there may be some truth that the energy and water savings practices incorporated into a LEED Silver or Gold facility would be implemented in any case, adhering to the guidelines can often have benefits that go well beyond just the environment. It is our experience that several categories on the LEED project checklist provide equal or greater value than environmental impact alone, especially when they are applied in emerging markets. For this reason, LEED should be considered for its stakeholder benefits, as well as its operational outcomes.
PepsiCo has experienced this first-hand while building new LEED plants abroad; we found that the categories of Construction Activity Management, Construction Waste Management and Indoor Air Quality are as important as Water and Energy savings in demonstrating our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment and considering the community in which we will operate. As we worked to incorporate these global standards in our facilities, we have learned several lessons:
It’s all about relationships. When building a food plant in Azov, Russia, PepsiCo realized the benefits of creating a strong, ongoing dialogue with local authorities. As expected, there is no universally accepted standard for building codes; what is required in the U.S. does not necessarily constitute local code in markets like Russia and China. Russian building standards, commonly known as GOST (Russian Interstate Standards) and SNIP (Russian Industry Standards), are designed to establish safety and building quality and meet the climatic and natural resource availability conditions in Russia, but it can be particularly challenging when LEED and SNIP standards intersect. For example, the use of rainwater for sanitary purposes in Russia, such as the flushing of toilets was perceived to be “unhygienic” and had to be withdrawn as a LEED credit. By having an open dialogue with local authorities, a company will be better positioned to inform them of LEED requirements and help resolve discrepancies (and even contradictions) between the local building codes and the project checklist.
Additionally, in many cases, contractors working in emerging markets often have not been exposed to the preventative planning and low impact practices that LEED encourages in the certification process for buildings. So, it’s critically important that a good working relationship be established with local contractors to ensure compliance with the LEED prerequisites in specific areas, notably erosion and sedimentation control and pre-planning for construction waste recycling.
Get creative. Some practices that would be considered “easy” credits in the United States can be much more challenging to achieve in other markets. In the case of aerators for water fixtures, for example, the design we needed to use when building in Russia was not available in the country. So, we got creative and carried the proper fixtures overseas in personal luggage to ensure the aerators were in place and qualified for LEED credit.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Demonstrating that our construction practices are respectful of the people and communities in which we build them proves time and time again to show the real value of ensuring LEED guidelines are in place. By adhering to Construction Activity Pollution Prevention criteria, companies can minimize the negative impacts on a community caused by entrance and exit traffic to a facility, as well as soil erosion and disposal of construction debris.
The Indoor Air Quality standards required by the current LEED standard for new construction (LEED NC 3.0) ensure that building air quality meets health standards before the occupancy is granted – adopting these standards, makes a clear statement of a company’s commitment to its employees’ health and safety.
Applying LEED standards in our buildings around the world requires more than a financial investment. Spending the time and creative energy required to make sure local authorities, contractors, communities and employees are fully informed about the rationale and compatibility of LEED requirements, helps PepsiCo achieve enough credits for LEED certifications. But, more importantly, it demonstrates our commitment to long-term engagement in the communities in which we operate…that’s a value you can’t put a price tag on.
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