Incorporating green building standards into the design process can help deliver 20% to 35% savings in energy costs, maximize the efficacy of plumbing systems, and improve long term durability. There are many ways developers can enhance projects by utilizing LEED or implementing smart cost saving standards. When pursuing LEED, a set of required prerequisites are presented at every LEED mixed-use building. These prerequisites are the most integral components of meeting the energy and cost-saving goals of LEED, and are simpler to achieve as building energy codes for all jurisdictions become increasingly strict over time.

Buildings account for 40% of total energy usage in the entire United States. More than transportation, and more than industrial activity, this makes buildings the highest energy expenditure in the country. Buildings also utilize 70% of the electricity generated in the U.S. and emit over one-third of carbon emissions, which is more than any sector of the economy. These realities indicate why mitigating any potential waste in energy use is an essential part of making sure this usage not only doesn’t increase, but potentially decreases as well.

Mixed-use buildings are the cornerstone of multifamily, high density living, combining nonresidential and residential activities in one structure. Here are the top five things you will learn about as you walk through a typical LEED Mixed-use building:

  1. Efficient Appliances- All LEED Certified Mixed-use buildings require ENERGY STAR rated appliances in living units, including refrigerators, dryers, and dishwashers. ENERGY STAR appliances use 10 to 50 percent less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent, reducing the annual electricity requirement and increasing the lifespan of each appliance compared to a non-LEED building.
  2. Indoor moisture protection- All units require moisture-resistant flooring around sinks, in bathrooms, spas, or any other location where moisture is present. Walking through a LEED mixed-use unit, there will be limited, if any, carpeting or other moisture-absorbent flooring throughout.
  3. Direct venting- All combustion appliances are vented directly to the outdoors so as to prevent circulation of stale or damp air within units. This helps to reduce potential contamination of conditioned air and is a crucial component of ensuring no leakage occurs from conditioned spaces.
  4. Adequate landscaping- All plants throughout a LEED Mixed-use building will be non-invasive and reflect the natural biodiversity of the region in which the building operates. This helps to limit the wasteful effect of plants that require too much irrigation. In addition, it also serves to limit the threat to native vegetation posed by non-native plants, which could have catastrophic effects throughout the local plant communities.
  5. Water efficiency- All water fixtures have low-flow rates to reduce overall water usage. Kitchen faucets, bathroom faucets, and toilets in all living units have effective yet conservational flow rates calibrated to ensure that no water is wasted throughout the building.

Ensuring that these factors are present in mixed-use buildings can be a time-consuming challenge for developers. VCA Green’s team of LEED specialists can assist in certifying these cost-saving and energy-reducing measures will be present in any LEED mixed-use building. For more information on LEED for Homes consultation services, please contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Daryl Dingman, Project Administrator

Moe Fakih, Principal