“LEED,” quipped one construction professional, “is Dungeons and Dragons.” Understanding the country’s most popular green building certification program is not a simple undertaking, and for good reason. Sustainability is a complex thing.  So is property construction, maintenance and design. Combine the two, and things can get complicated.

However, if you are pursuing LEED certification don’t let its complexity daunt you. LEED can bring a lot of perks to a commercial operation. It provides proof that your property meets the highest standards for environmental responsibility and energy and water efficiency.  It’s great for publicity and for attracting forward-thinking tenants and customers. And, it may even get you a break on your insurance premiums.

 Can your landscaping contribute to LEED certification? You bet!

How Your Landscaping Can Help You With LEED 

To assist you in your certification planning, here are a number of ways you can earn LEED points in your landscape:

  • On-Site restoration – You can receive up to 2 LEED points for restoring a part of your landscape to create a natural area on your property that promotes biodiversity. The restored area must occupy at least 40% of your property’s footprint, but a portion of that amount can include a green roof under certain circumstances.
  • Open space – By dedicating 30% or more of your property’s footprint to open areas that encourage people to enjoy the outdoors, you can earn 1 LEED credit. This can include lawn, hardscaped areas, and/or non-turf vegetation.
  • Heat island reduction – You can earn up to 2 LEED points by taking measures that moderate summer temperatures on your property. Some landscaping solutions that do this include high solar reflectance pavers, shade trees, vegetated planters, arbors and other vegetated structures, and green roofs.
  • Outdoor water use reduction – LEED certified properties are required to demonstrate that they either do not need an irrigation system (past the first two years allowed to establish vegetation) or can reduce their watering by at least 30% over a calculated baseline. These savings must be documented and thus water metering is often required.
  • Local food production – Dedicating a portion of your site to food-producing plants and maintaining the project using integrated pest management (IPM) can earn your commercial property 1 LEED credit. This is an outstanding option for facilities that offer food service, such as restaurants or schools.
  • Innovation: sustainable wastewater management – By re-using your building’s wastewater (for example, from rainwater, cooling tower blow-down, shower and laundry facilities, air conditioner condensate, etc.) in landscape irrigation, you can earn 1 LEED point.
  • Regional materials – If you are planning a hardscaped area in your landscape, using materials sourced from your region can help you earn the Regional Materials credit.
  • Integrated pest management plan - The implementation of a pest management plan that includes documented landscape inspections and implementation of cultural practices that minimize the need to use control products is useful. (This is often confused with a requirement for organic programs which are not part of the LEED process.)
  • Landscape waste reduction and composting – Composting of landscape waste and reuse on the site may also earn LEED credit.

A qualified landscape professional who is familiar with LEED will be able to help you navigate LEED’s maze of options and zero in on the applications that will make the most sense for your particular property and needs.

NOTE: These ideas refer to v.4 LEED Certification for New Construction, and are just a sampling to help give you an idea of the variety of ways your landscape can help you achieve LEED certification.

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