LEED is an acronym. It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s actually the name of a rating system that’s used in a lot of different ways, and it’s owned by a non-profit organization made up of volunteers and staff in Washington. It’s the U.S. Green Building Council. Okay?
What it looks at is more than just energy use. It also broadly looks at our sites and how we make them sustainable, which includes storm water management, heat island effect, preservation of those natural attributes that, you know, there’s a fixed amount of. Also, conversion of brown fields and so forth. So you’ve got sites. Also, water efficiency; how much we use to pump around our waste, what we put on our lawns and so forth. And then there’s the section of the rating system that addresses the materials that we use. It tries to get us to become aware of those associated costs of transportation that often times are included in the price that we pay for the products. It’s helped create a marketplace for renewables; those things such as cotton, plant based flooring materials that take less petroleum to produce and so forth. And then there’s a section of the rating system that has to do with the environmental quality of the interior. We spend probably 70%, 80%, maybe a lot of folks, 90% of their time inside and making sure that the air that we breathe inside of the building is healthy. Making sure the amenities… How comfortable we are with the temperature and the light and having views outside the window, that we’re not exposed to second hand smoke or cigarette smoking. All of those things go together in this rating system for buildings.
Now, the U.S. Green Building Council is volunteers, and one of the curious and wonderful things about it, it’s a place of collaboration. Not just tree huggers and those people that are adamant that we ought to fix these things, but those people that provide it. And the wonderful thing is, it has created a very serious dialogue where those people that want meaningful change can inter-react with those people that can start to deliver it. And in the rating systems, when you see a LEED building or what have you, it’s kind of like saying, I not only want my kid to be a Scout, but I want him to be an Eagle Scout. And it has produced a wonderful shorthand so that a broad group of people now recognize the attributes.
Even though, like in the case of an Eagle Scout, you may not know exactly how many sit-ups the kid had to do in order to get the physical fitness badge, LEED does the same thing for buildings, but now it is also doing it for neighborhoods, and it’s a process that we’re now seeing for operations of existing buildings as well as new construction. So it’s this collaborative, changing and evolving of the marketplace and the way we do things that it’s helped us accomplish.