LEED Pt.3 – Public Benefit
We have spent a fair amount of time recently discussing some of the benefits of contracting with Schaus-Vorhies Contracting to achieve LEED certification for your structure. Whether it is a home or a multi-story office building, LEED certification helps reduce energy costs and attracts reliable tenants faster than just building according to whatever the local building codes are. So far, all of the benefits that we have focused on have been about the building’s owner and how the LEED certification helps the bottom line and bring about positive public relations. What about everyone else? What about the positive benefits to the people living and working in such buildings?
When it comes to positive benefits to those living and working in LEED-certified buildings, they could not be more clear. It is no secret that in the developed world, from Japan to France, to the United States, most people spend the vast majority of their time indoors. Many of us spend as much as 90% of our lives in some sort of building. Only those who make a conscious and concerted effort to be outside as much as possible can get as much half of their lives outside. That means the environment where we live and work is extremely important. Things like air quality, noise levels, and lighting all have a significant effect on our health.
Because of the vast amount of time most of us spend indoors, ventilation is key to a LEED certification. Natural ventilation, wherever possible, is used in conjunction with high-quality filters and censors to keep an eye on gas and pollutant levels. Combined with high-efficiency boilers so that fewer fossil fuels are used on-site, the air quality in a LEED-certified building is considerably higher than one simply built to code. This leads to fewer employee and resident complaints about air quality as well as better overall health. The improved air quality that comes along with LEED construction is particularly important for the elderly and children as they are more vulnerable to respiratory issues that can come with bad air quality. Localized temperature and humidity controls also help people set their environment to the optimal condition for their health.
LEED construction also places a premium on noise reduction. While not directly related to environmental conservation, noise reduction is important to creating a better place to live and work. As such, LEED certifications encourage the use of a variety of sound-cutting practices. The most obvious of these is the use of sound-proofing materials such as cotton insulation and specially designed floor underlayment, ceiling tiles, and wall materials that trap or dissipate sound. Less obvious, but at least as important as the building’s HVAC equipment. Noise can be reduced here through a number of simple means. The clearest is to purchase equipment with tighter tolerances, meaning that there will be fewer noise-inducing vibrations from operating equipment. Another is to make sure that you are getting the properly sized equipment for the job. That means you aren’t forcing air through inadequate ducting if your HVAC unit is oversized, or putting too much stress on it if it is undersized. Ensuring you have heating and cooling units that are sized appropriately to your building also means that the equipment only runs when needed. One final way to reduce noise is to place loud HVAC units away from the building simply. Overall, these noise reduction methods can reduce distractions for everyone inside the LEED-certified structure.
Lighting is also essential. People have known for a long time that fluorescent lighting used in most buildings has adverse side effects on people’s moods. The natural flickering that occurs in such lighting can also give headaches to those who are more prone to them. LEED certification focuses on natural lighting wherever possible. Most people know that natural light has positive living benefits and health benefits, such as helping the body produce vitamin D. Anyone who has ever worked a night shift or has just made a long and grueling road trip through the night knows that natural light helps make you more awake and alert. There are even artificial lights meant to simulate natural lighting to help night shifters adjust their circadian rhythms.
Better air, fewer distractions, and happier, more alert people; these are just some of the benefits experienced by the growing number of people living and working in LEED-certified buildings. And they are all excellent reasons that you should call Schaus-Vorhies Contracting about designing and building your project today.