LEED for Retail Finally Set to Debut

It’s official: After years in the development and pilot phases, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Retail has been approved. At press time, the U.S. Green Building Council was expected to announce an official launch of late 2010.

“Once it launches, all retailers seeking LEED certification will be required to build according to this new rating system,” said Justin Doak, founder and CEO, Ecoxera, Austin, Texas. “In the meantime, retail projects can continue to register under LEED 2009 for New Construction or LEED 2009 for Commercial Interiors.”

The new certification actually consists of two separate rating-system tracks—LEED for Retail: New Construction and Major Renovation and LEED for Retail: Commercial Interiors. The difference between the two is all based on control, according to Doak.

“New construction is for retailers that control the shell of the building and influence over the site,” he explained. “Commercial Interiors is a green benchmark for the tenant improvement market, where site or shell of building is typically out of control, so mall and lifestyle retail tenants should use this path.”

LEED for Retail was developed specifically to address the unique needs and issues of a retail facility (including supermarkets, freestanding stores, in-line mall tenants, restaurants and banks). It took many of the existing credits in other LEED ratings systems and tailored them to meet the specific needs of retail outlets. LEED for Retail captures both a building’s physical systems (design, equipment, land use, etc.) as well as its operation.

“The pilot project teams provided real market feedback on how to apply LEED for New Construction and LEED for Commercial Interiors to retail spaces,” Doak explained.

The retailers that took part in the process and achieved certification through the LEED Retail pilot program are a diverse group and include Office Depot, Kohl’s, Chipotle, Wachovia, Coldwater Creek, Safeway, Bank of America, REI, McDonald’s and Whole Foods Market, to name a few.

As far as volume certification, a process whereby the USGBC would streamline the certification process for the same building type but a different site, it is still in development.

“But essentially volume will work with any LEED platform,” Doak said.

The original USGBC Rating Systems were not compatible with retail projects’ need for water and energy efficiency, space requirements for front- and back-of-house, and typical retail occupancies.

Understanding the New Rating System:

To help retailers navigate the new LEED for Retail rating system, Ecoxera, in partnership with Chain Store Age and the International Council of Shopping Centers, has developed a webinar, the LEED for Retail Educational Series. The program is made up of three parts or modules: Introduction to LEED Retail, Technical Credit Variances, and LEED Integration & Beyond. It is scheduled to launch live on Sept. 21, 2010 and will be available for download on Oct. 14.

“What you don’t know can hurt you—understanding LEED for Retail is critical to any retailer that is evaluating the appropriate green benchmark for their real estate sustainability efforts,” said Justin Doak, founder and CEO, Ecoxera, Austin, Texas. Doak previously worked for the U.S. Green Building Council, where he managed the technical development of the LEED Retail New Construction and LEED Retail Commercial Interiors green building platforms.

Doak stressed that the webinar is not an advertisement for the new rating system. Instead, it is intended to provide background as to how the program operates and, at a time where new green building and design systems have emerged, to help retailers and other professionals determine whether or not LEED certification is a good fit for their company.

“Retailers often quickly jump into LEED without knowing what it will require and how it is best incorporated into their operational structure,” Doak said.

For information on the webinar, go to ecoxera.com.