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How to Apply LEED to Multi-Building Campuses

Campus with brick buildings and green lawn areas.

Seeking LEED certification for a group of buildings rather than individual structures can have advantages and disadvantages.

Achieving LEED certification is an important goal for many property owners and developers. It’s not easy, and many rules are involved that can vary along with the specifications of the project. One significant variation is regarding multi-building campuses.

Single vs. Multi-Use

There are pros and cons to applying for LEED certification for a group of buildings vs. a single structure.

First, when you apply for a multi-building campus, you can save money on application fees, which are no small expense in this type of project. Costs include registration fees plus fees based on the square footage of your building. Combining the square footage of all the buildings and applying for just one certification can save many thousands of dollars.

However, when you apply for multi-building certification, all the buildings listed must conform to each LEED requirement in order to earn that point. If even one falls short in any way, you lose the point for the project. This can be a problem in a number of specific areas, including:

  • Site selection
  • Minimum energy performance
  • Fundamental refrigerant management
  • Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) control
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring
  • Increased ventilation
  • Low-emitting materials
  • Indoor chemical & pollutant source control
  • Thermal comfort
  • Daylight and views

Group Benefits

Weighing all the buildings together can, in some cases, gain you a point that you may not have otherwise gotten by submitting separate applications. Some examples would be cases in which buildings share services or systems, such as water runoff and drainage, and parking lots.

Depending on your client, certifying buildings in a group can be especially beneficial if they intend to build many of the same structures. This could be the plan in, for instance, a cookie-cutter housing development or chain of stores or restaurants. Using a prototype can save significant money and time on a project since much of the design work needs to be done only once. Although getting that first certification might be challenging, once you have done so, you are virtually assured of achieving it on all the other buildings because you are using basically the same plans for each.

Even though LEED certification is designated by a fairly modest emblem conveyed upon the building’s owner by the U.S. Green Building Council, this award is often deeply coveted. When you apply for separate certification for each building, you get individual plaques. With multi-building certification, you get one.

While this fact may not be enough to convince the developer to pay the extra fees to certify the buildings individually, if the scales are otherwise already tipped in that direction, it may be one of the deciding factors.

Group of architects looking at drawings.

Energy use and conservation are essential considerations when applying for LEED designation.

Energy Use Considerations

An important component of LEED certification is energy use and ratings. Your building or campus must meet strict energy usage requirements in order to achieve the designation.

Energy Star certification is a separate designation, and extra benchmarks must be met for multi-building campuses. Only five types of multi-building projects are eligible for Energy Star certification. These are:

  • Hospital
  • Hotel
  • K-12 school
  • Multifamily housing
  • Senior care community

Further, if you are pursuing Energy Star certification and your project falls into one of the above categories, you are required to submit the application to be considered as a multi-use property; you cannot choose buildings to be certified individually.

PDH Online Courses Can Help

Pursuing LEED certification for one or several buildings is incredibly challenging and often takes years to achieve. However, winning this designation is becoming increasingly important to developers across the U.S., as green building practices and sustainability continue to enjoy increasing popularity.

PDH online courses include a course that addresses specifics in achieving the designation: LEED for New Construction Application for Multi-Building Campuses. This course teaches architects about building performance standards, approaches to certification and how to apply prerequisites and credits. Check out all of our courses for architects.

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