LEED Scorecards & Commercial Skylights: What You Need to Know
By Jeff Brain | March 31, 2015
LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has evolved from being a new green building standard unveiled by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in the year 2000 to today’s comprehensive and organized system of multiple design standards. LEED scorecards exist for commercial buildings as well as homes, and they provides a useful list of ratings that show how energy efficient a particular construction process and product is.
How Is Your Building Rated and How Does It Impact You?
The USGBC is dedicated to enhancing the building sustainability in the categories of energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources, sustainable site research, and water usage. For each sustainable design choice that is implemented, points are awarded according to the level of sustainability. A total of 40 points are needed to earn the lowest LEED certification. Additional bonus points are also awarded for design innovation.
So what do you receive if your building is certified? Aside from energy efficiency and cost savings, you may also qualify for tax-based incentives, reduced-cost technical assistance, grants and low-interest loans depending on in which state your building is located. Studies indicate that with an additional sustainable building cost of $6.07 per square foot of floor space, you may be able to reduce your energy costs by as much as 60%.
Where Should You Start?
According to the Department of Energy, lighting and space heating are the main components of energy use in commercial buildings, contributing to over 47% of the energy bill every year. This is in large part because of the heat generated by artificial lighting which causes the air conditioning system to work overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature in the space. Because the HVAC system works harder for longer hours, the frequency of HVAC repairs also increases. If you factor together the cost of lightbulb replacement, lighting system maintenance, and service of the HVAC equipment, then the cost of an inefficient lighting system could very well account for over 50% of your total costs. Renovating your lighting means not only earning valuable points toward a LEED certification, but also a significant reduction in overhead costs.
Lighting Commercial Spaces
LEED recognizes the energy efficiency of both high quality, natural daylighting devices and artificial LEDs. However, if you are looking for a sustainable lighting solution that improves workplace ambience, attracts customers, reduces energy bills, and earns commercial tax incentives, then opting for daylighting in place of artificial light fixtures is the way to go.
While LED bulbs help improve the LEED rating of a building, the narrow spectrum light they produce has a far poorer quality than that of sunlight--plus they still consumes electricity. Natural daylighting is a free, aesthetically pleasing alternative that improves workplace productivity and can provide thermal comfort. Commercial skylights maximize natural light usage in the building during normal working hours; still, if a company continues operations after sunset, then combining daylighting devices with LEDs will ensure that the interiors are most efficiently well-lit.
The Ciralight SunTracker daylighting technology provides building interiors with uninterrupted natural light for longer hours than any other skylight on the market, and they are designed to prevents heat from flowing in and out of the interiors, thus reducing the strain on the HVAC system. They also qualify for extra LEED points in the category of innovation and design.