At USGBC, we always say that every story about LEED is a story about people. When USGBC set out to create the LEED standards, we wanted to build something that helped people and made their lives better. After all, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, whether at work, school or home. Knowing this, wouldn’t we want those indoor spaces to be the healthiest and most comfortable places possible?
Better buildings, better productivity
There is also a business case to be made for healthy indoor environments, one that employers, investors, building developers and owners are discovering. A better indoor environment is better for people—and people are the most valuable resource in most organizations, typically accounting for 90 percent of business operating costs. Even a 1 percent improvement in productivity or in reduced absenteeism can have a major impact on the bottom line and competitiveness of any business. A 2012 study found that companies that adopt more rigorous environmental standards are associated with higher labor productivity, by an average of 16 percent, over non-green firms.
LEED has an entire credit category dedicated to the indoor environment: Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ), which includes prerequisites and credits for design and construction projects, interiors, homes and existing buildings.
The EQ credit category in LEED rewards decisions made by projects teams about indoor air quality and thermal, visual and acoustic comfort. Green buildings with high indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of building occupants, enhance productivity, decrease absenteeism, improve a building’s value and reduce liability for building designers and owners.
A holistic system for IEQ results
To have a high-quality indoor environment, you need a high-quality building—one that is holistically developed using a system like LEED. You can’t have a high-performing indoor space if the building itself is wasting energy, water and other resources. You can’t ensure health in a building that is constructed on land unsuitable for development. You can’t ensure well-being in a building that is not optimized for the systems inside. You can’t have a more comfortable indoor environment in a building that is contributing to the heat island effect. All of these components contribute to the LEED rating system and what ensures a high-performing building from the inside out.
The relationship between the indoor environment and the health and comfort of occupants is complex. Local customs and expectations, occupant activities and the building’s site, design and construction are just a few variables that make it harder to measure. However, there are many ways to quantify the direct effect of a building on its occupants. LEED balances the need for prescriptive measures with more performance-oriented credit requirements. For example, source control is addressed first in a LEED EQ prerequisite, and a later credit then specifies an indoor air quality assessment to measure the actual outcome of these strategies.
The EQ category also combines traditional approaches with emerging design strategies. Traditional approaches include ventilation and thermal control, while the emerging design techniques involve advanced lighting metrics, acoustics and a holistic emissions-based approach.
Here is the breakdown of the LEED EQ category for existing buildings:
- Prerequisite: Minimum indoor air quality performance
- Prerequisite: Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control
- Prerequisite: Green cleaning policy
- Credit (2 points); Indoor air quality management program
- Credit (2 points): Enhanced indoor air quality strategies
- Credit (1 point): Thermal comfort
- Credit (2 points): Interior lighting
- Credit (4 points): Daylight and quality views
- Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—custodial effectiveness assessment
- Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—products and materials
- Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—equipment
- Credit (2 points): Integrated pest management
- Credit (1 point): Occupant comfort survey
In Boston, you won't want to miss USGBC’s session D14, dedicated to LEED credit strategies for healthy spaces:
Thurs., November 9, 1–2 p.m.
In LEED, the Indoor Environmental Quality category addresses design strategies and environmental factors—such as air quality, lighting quality, acoustic design and control over one’s surroundings—that influence the way people learn, work and live. LEED subject matter experts will review the credits, discuss how teams can prioritize their time and present strategies for implementation.