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LEED Retail Approved - What Next?

Submitted by: Ecoxera

Categories: Green Building, Sustainability

Posted: Apr 07, 2010 – 11:57 AM EST


AUSTIN, Texas, Apr. 07 /CSRwire/ - After years in the development and pilot phases, LEED Retail has been approved and the USGBC is set to announce its official launch. When it goes live, all retailers attempting LEED certification will be required to build according to this new system. One question still stands – will it be embraced by the retail industry?

In 2006, the economy was gangbusters. Retailers were churning out one new location after another, budgets were rich and people were ready for exploration, but this was before the sustainability dialogue really starting sinking into retail. This was when a LEED certified flagship retail store was enough of an accomplishment to garner hefty media attention and convince the core customer that they were a 'green' retailer.

Around the same time, any retail professional in the store planning and construction space would have told you that LEED Retail was going to be the north star. You couldn't attend a conference or read a design and construction feed without hearing about another LEED Retail pilot successfully receiving certification. Every industry from commercial office space and healthcare to schools and universities were touting a new green flagship space. Meanwhile, retailers were scrambling to be the "first" in their space – the first grocer to certify platinum, first department store to go green, first office supply store to have a green prototype or the first bank to certify all new branch developments in a given year, etc. But firsts are over and having a LEED flagship store doesn't generate the press that it used to – so what is the current value of LEED Retail in the market?

"LEED originally grew out of the need for a clear definition of what constitutes a 'green building' through a consensus-based standard," says Lisa Russell, Ecoxera co-founder and LEED Retail core committee member that helped shape the LEED Retail system. "LEED Retail went one step farther to answer the need for a green building benchmark that recognizes the unique nature of retail environments and operations."

For example, LEED Retail takes into consideration heavy energy usage by QSR's in their commercial kitchens. Previous to LEED Retail, certification for this retail segment was nearly impossible because of this restriction. In that sense, achieving certification under LEED Retail will be easier than under the traditional predecessor.

Cost and scalability will be the main hurdles to market saturation of LEED Retail. Currently, there is no streamlined process for a retailer that wishes to build and LEED certify several stores with one prototype or set of specifications. Multi-site certification, when tackled one store at a time, becomes time-consuming and cost-prohibitive for short-staffed and over-budget store planning departments. LEED Retail's Portfolio Program – a new approach that streamlines the documentation process and reduces the overall cost – would solve this challenge, but has been in development for years and will likely not launch in tandem with LEED Retail.

That is not to say that retailers can ignore this new system when it goes live. Even though LEED was designed to be a voluntary standard, it has and will continue to be adopted as mandatory code in cities across the U.S. that building design must adhere to for permitting and approval. There are many other new kids on the block, as well. The market now has ASHRAE 189.1, CalGreen, and the forthcoming IGCC that are beginning to be adopted into city code. Which standard municipalities settle on will dictate which platform retailers will choose as their preferred benchmark. If there are variances in municipal green building expectations, the challenge for retailers will be to build inherent flexibility into store planning and development.

While the fate of LEED Retail cannot be forecast, we can learn some lessons from the actions of the few retailers that have and continue to use LEED, including: Best Buy, Starbucks, Bank of America, REI, Aveda, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Home Depot, and many others. These retailers have successfully certified at least one store with the USGBC. Some continue to certify new locations across their portfolio, but many certify a single store, modify their prototype to meet the LEED standards, and continue to design and build according to the LEED standards without moving through documentation unless a city requires it for entitlement or certification. This has been an affordable solution for many retailers who wish to build green, but can't spend the time or money to achieve LEED certification.

"What you don't know can hurt you," says Justin Doak, Ecoxera CEO and former LEED Retail Technical Manager. "Understanding USGBC's forthcoming retail system will be critical to any retailer that is evaluating the appropriate green building benchmark for their portfolio-wide real estate sustainability efforts."

Get up to Speed with LEED Retail

To help retailers navigate LEED Retail, learn what it means for their company, and evaluate the benefits of the system, a three-part educational series is offered exclusively from Ecoxera. Learn more here.

Ecoxera answers retailer's questions with a twelve question LEED Retail Q&A available for download here.

Ecoxera's Green Building Management and Certification Program delivers the most time and cost effective approach to streamlining multi-site green building certification with integrated strategy and our proprietary, web-based software solution. Learn more here.

About Ecoxera
Ecoxera (eco-zair-uh), based in Austin, Texas, is a sustainability consulting firm that assists retailers, suppliers, and material manufacturers in developing and executing the optimal strategy for their business. With over 20 years experience in sustainability for retail, Ecoxera supports clients in achieving environmental excellence, cost savings, and enhanced brand equity with innovative strategies, benchmarking, compliance, tactical solutions, and marketing in this eco era.

About Justin Doak
Justin Doak is a recognized thought leader in bringing sustainability to the retail environment. Many know Justin from his work at the U.S. Green Building Council where he managed the technical development of LEED Retail New Construction and LEED Retail Commercial Interiors green building platforms due for market launch this year. Today, as the Founder and CEO of Ecoxera, Justin works closely with retail industry leaders and major associations to increase the knowledge, financial incentives and implementation of sustainable practices across a variety of bottom-line driven entities, including developers, retailers, quick service restaurants, brands, manufacturers and hoteliers.

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