Yosemite Community College District's Office Building in Modesto was designed by Darden Architects and has a LEED Gold certification. It incorporates sustainable aspects such as solar panels, exterior continuous insulation, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Written by Frank Lopez
Introduced in the year 2000, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has become the world’s most widely used green building rating system, providing a framework that can be applied to create healthy, efficient and cost-saving green buildings.
According to a 2018 report from SmartMarket Report, “World Green Building Trends 2018,” moderate growth in green activity is expected in the US by 2021, with those doing the majority (more than 60 percent) of their projects using “green” standards going up from 32 percent to 45 percent – the driver being client demand.
In Fresno alone, there are at least 34 LEED certified buildings, and there is more interest recently for LEED certified projects. For the top 20 LEED-Registered Buildings in the Fresno area, see the list on page 10.
There are four different levels of LEED certification, with “Certified” being the lowest level and “Platinum” certification at the very top, and each level having its own standards including location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency energy and atmosphere, and materials and resources.
Along with LEED certification, environmental codes spelled out in the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan have a goal for all new residential construction to be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020 and all new commercial buildings to be ZNE by 2030.
“Zero net energy is where you want to go,” said Mayuko Russell, project manager at Dyson & Janzen Architects, Inc. “That means that you’re giving back as much energy to the grid as you are using.”
LEED certification is run on a points system, with a 40-49 point range to achieve Certified level, and 80 points and above accomplishing Platinum LEED certification. Russell said that using an existing building instead of building a brand new one scores a lot of points because there are less materials and energy needed.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non-profit organization with a goal to transform the way buildings and communities are designed and operated to enable environmental and socially responsible housing and a prosperous community.
Laura Gromis is the executive director of USGBC Central California. She said despite there being a low demand in the area in comparison to others in California, the council is seeing an interest for LEED certified buildings from owners.
Besides the environmental benefits for LEED, Gromis says that a big motivator for builders and designers is to provide a better environment for workers and building users.
“For building users, it is a much more healthy environment to be in,” Gromis said.
Gromis said that the initial cost for a green building can be higher than constructing a conventional building, which is often the biggest barrier for developers. But the investments pay-off in an average of seven years, she added.
Thought the California Energy Code is strict to ensure that all buildings in California are built to use a low amount of energy, LEED is much more comprehensive and looks at all aspects of leadership in energy and environmental design.
At Darden Architects in Fresno, architect Kjirsten Harpain said that while there are still developers interested in LEED, especially for manufacturing plants, the implementation of the California Green Building Standards Code in 2014 has left less interest for state owned buildings to purse LEED.
“During the economic desert of the first half of the teens, market conditions were so competitive that LEED was a differentiator for owners and their markets, combined with the design and construction industry eagerly absorbing the labor costs to provide the required documentation for certification,” Harpain said.