LEED Certification

US Green Building LEED logo

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded Zingerman’s Delicatessen Gold Level LEED Certification for their multi-year expansion project in 2014. Taking a giant step towards fulfilling the sustainability pledge at the beginning of the 2020 vision for the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

What is LEED anyway?
The acronym LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Basically, it’s serious third party verification “that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.” In a nutshell, it labels a new project as an environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy place in which to live and work. The US Green Building Council developed the LEED points system to make it possible for building owners and operators to identify and implement practical and measurable green design solutions to issues in construction, operations, and maintenance. The choices we make will garner points that when added up will accredit us with a level of LEED certification—certified, silver, gold or platinum — based on an accumulation range of 1 to 100 total points (with 10 bonus points available).

What exactly does LEED measure?
To give you an idea of LEED specifications we’re examining and weighing as appropriate and feasible for us, take a look at the six main categories where the build-out plan aims to receive credit points:

1. Sustainable Sites: To get these credits, we minimize our building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways. It covers everything from encouraging downtown density and managing stormwater runoff to edible landscaping and responsible construction site management.

2. Water Efficiency: To get these credits, we implement smart water use inside and out.

3. Energy and Atmosphere (read ‘carbon footprint’): This is the big opportunity category for us because restaurants are energy intensive buildings. In the U.S., buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year. Restaurants, per square foot, consume nearly three times more energy than the average commercial building. So our Build-Out has got to use a variety of integrated energy strategies. Efficient design and construction is a start. Purchasing energy star-rated appliances and lighting helps. Recapturing and reusing waste heat and installing water-cooled refrigeration systems means very little energy gets lost. We’ll also hire folks called commissioning agents who vet and balance our systems to monitor energy performance for years after we’re up and running. They make sure our systems operate as efficiently as designed.

4. Materials and Resources: This credit category makes us focus on what’s out there product-wise and material-wise that’s grown, harvested, produced and transported in a sustainable fashion. From framing (FSC certified lumber and concrete block made with fly ash) to finishes (countertops made of recycled paper pulp, old linoleum flooring), the Build-Out will end up with many smart, high performance, easy on the environment materials. We also know that the reuse of any salvageable materials and the responsible disposal of all construction waste earns additional points.

5. Indoor Environmental Quality: To earn these credits we have to consider all the strategies that give us top quality indoor air, maximize the use of natural light and make us all acoustically comfy!

6. Innovation and Design: This last category provides bonus points for innovative site-specific solutions that go the extra mile. It recognizes projects that use creative technologies and strategies effective above and beyond the LEED standards. Sounds very Zingy so we’ll see what we can come up with to earn points here.

If your curiosity is peaked, check out credits and the project certification process on the USGBC’s LEED website: www.usgbc.org. You’ll learn everything you want to know about the intent, the requirements, and the strategies for getting those credits.